With the German election coming up on the 24th of September, we took it to Berlin’s streets to ask the next generation of possible game changers about their views on Germany’s – and the world’s – current political climate, chancellor Angela Merkel, and if they feel engaged by politics right now. Like a lot of other countries, Germany has seen an alarming rise of far right supporters within all age-groups, with the right wing AfD currently being the third strongest party prior to the election. Looking to take a stand against these crucial developments our interviewees gave us an insight to the topics most important to them: same sex marriage (which Angela Merkel long was and still is opposed to, despite just initiating a law allowing marriage equality in Germany), education, and giving voice to youth.
Clemens (19), studies educational theory & Olivia (19), studies management and law
Why is it important to be interested in politics?
Olivia: Witnessing what is happening right now in the world and then also calling into mind what has happened in history, current developments are quite alarming. I think that also is because people aren’t interested in politics anymore and don’t really think twice about their opinions and decisions.
Clemens: Because we can all create change.
What change would you like to see?
Clemens: More chances regarding participation from students, also more transparency. Especially when you are still in high school there are not enough possibilities to really get engaged in politics.
Olivia: And I think that if parties and politicians are trying to connect to younger people they often still talk down to them yet claim to do everything in their power to engage us.
What is your perception of Angela Merkel?
Olivia: I think it is quite a disappointment when a leading figure in politics votes against same sex marriage.
Who would be your ideal chancellor?
Laura (21), studies archaeology
Would you say that political issues are of interest to you and your friends?
There definitely is a lot of controversy and discussion in my circle of friends. It has become more and more of a topic in recent time. I feel like it’s a rollercoaster ride right now, parties that have had a huge following are losing voters and the other way around.
What topics are the most important to you and your friends?
We talk a lot about the housing situation and rents, especially because we live in Berlin. We would like there to be equal opportunities for people to rent, even if you don’t earn something like 5.000 € per month. But we also talk a lot about the environment, ecological problems and actions that are, or are not, coming from politicians.
What is your impression of Angela Merkel as a chancellor?
To be honest, she has been chancellor for so long now that I can’t even remember a time without her. But in general I think she is doing a good job in representing Germany internationally, regarding what she is doing in the country itself her statements and actions often disappoint me. I feel like she never really gets to the point, which is quite a problem, especially in the current time.
What would you do different if you were her?
I would try and give people as much of a voice as possible. That of course often is easier said than done but I would just try and get as many opinions from people as possible, not just from politicians.
How would you describe your generation’s relation to politics?
I feel like a lot of people aren’t that motivated because everything kind of works, so there isn’t a direct need to improve or change something. It’s a bit weird because people don’t need to be afraid because the state of the country isn’t bad still there are so many crucial developments happening that should make you get involved.
What is your impression of Angela Merkel as the current chancellor?
I mean, I am gay so I think she is too conservative. She has her morals which she follows despite what others may think of her – which can also be a good thing because not a lot of politicians are currently doing that. She has her principles and she stays true to them.
Do you feel like Angela Merkel has been a good chancellor in regards of also serving the needs of the LGBTQ community?
I obviously don’t like that it has taken so long for same sex marriage to become legal in Germany, but it is going to be legal now, no matter that some of the current government and even Angela Merkel were against it.
What do you feel are the most important topics in politics right now?
Basic income! We need to hold society together so that everyone has the chance to really evolve.
Ariella (20), studies social anthropology & Josie (23), works at a publishing company
Why is it important to vote and use your voice in the German election?
Josie: There is a lot of shit going on and it’s really important to be active about it and stop the world from descending.
Ariella: We are the next generation; we have to be involved in what’s going on and what’s coming.
If you would be in charge what would you change?
Josie: I would lower the voting age to 16, because youth should have more of a voice.
Ariella: The refugees would also be an important topic to me. We should keep the borders open. Especially because other countries are more restrictive, I feel like it’s good for Germany to stay open so far.
Josie: Especially with far right people gaining more power than they had, them feeling like they have more a voice now, we need to hold against that.
Do you feel like developments like Brexit sometimes need to happen for people to wake up?
Josie: Yes, people have gotten more engaged since then, but whether that’s worth Brexit I don’t know.
Anna (20), studies history & Tristan (20), studies music
Is politics right now something that is interesting to you?
Anna: I feel like it’s a time where a lot of young people are very engaged in politics and we’re really standing up and doing something about it. It’s hitting everyone who would normally say “Oh politics is boring, this doesn’t affect me”, people are standing up, and even if I don’t agree with the opinions of some of them at least we’re all doing something about it. There is a lot less apathy.
Tristan: I feel like there is a general culture of at least wanting change with people our age. I’m very excited to see what will happen in Germany, but I don’t feel like I know a lot of what’s going on currently. The only thing I really know is from the ads I’ve seen on the street.
What is your impression of German politics and its politicians?
Tristan: I feel like the whole political system is quite mysterious. The government operates in such a topped down way, very secret. I think what Angela Merkel has done with the refugees is amazing though.
Anna: But the rest of Europe has let her down, Germany opened its doors expecting other people to follow suit and then it was swamped with a huge amount of people they maybe couldn’t cope with, which is very valiant, but has maybe caused problems because everyone else didn’t support them.
Tristan: I don’t envy her position now. What she does has such weight because of what goes on in the U.S., she is like the responsible person now.
Anna: She is mean to Donald Trump though and I respect that, I support that as a concept.
If you would be the next chancellors, what would be your priorities?
Tristan: Just building a system that can easily react to change. Currently I think that’s what we need, a system that is a bit more steady and doesn’t collapse. Also having more media cover what’s going on. There’s a lot of people that don’t read up about it and then blame changes on something or someone else.
If you could choose anybody to be the next chancellor, who would you choose?
Both: Bill Bailey!
Helena (21), studies social work
Why is it important to vote?
Because it is important to stand in for your opinions. There are so many extreme parties right now, and all their followers are going to be voting in the German election, so we also need to make a stand against that.
What would you tell people that are not going to vote?
That they have no right to complain later if something bad happens. We have the right to vote so we should use it. I seriously can’t understand how someone could decide not to vote.
What do you view as the most important topics that politicians should be focusing on right now?
Education! And that everybody has the same access to education. People always say that everybody has the same chances, but that’s bullshit. I feel like the topic should be way more discussed in the election campaigns.
So do you feel the current administration is serving your needs right now?
I feel like Angela Merkel has made a few good decisions, but I still think that a lot of things have been decided over people’s heads. Most parties don’t really engage with people, and younger people. They are really stuck in their habits and like that don’t really reach youth.
Lukas (22), student & Zoe (20), student
Why is it important for young people to be engaged in politics right now and vote?
Lukas: As soon as you have the chance to have a voice you should inform yourself and then use that voice. If you only complain but don’t actively do anything to change what is bothering you nothing will ever change.
Zoe: It also is especially important for young people because we are the ones that are going to live with the consequences the longest. So not caring at all and not voting shouldn’t be an option.
What are the topics that are most important to you?
Zoe: The refugee crisis of course is a huge topic right now, for me personally environmental issues also are really important. I feel like the environment has been a big topic for some time but nobody is that interested anymore, which is a shame.
Do you feel like Angela Merkel is dealing with these issues the right way?
Zoe: In general I feel like she is doing a good job. But some things still bother me, like the decision that the families of the refugees that are already here aren’t allowed to follow, so kids and wives are being left behind.
Lukas: She has been chancellor for a really long time now, so I feel like a bit of change in the administration might be good.
Photography by Isabel O’Toole