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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 21:07 GMT 22:07 UK
Cyber Schroeder woos surfers
gerhard-schroeder.de
Schroeder.de - the hardworking chancellor

Gerhard Schroeder is hard at work - that is the message fanfared on the German Chancellor's new website.

Launched just two months before elections, it is his latest weapon in his battle to win back flagging ratings.

The normally grinning Social Democrat leader is portrayed in a series of earnest poses, shirtsleeves rolled up, in the images that dot gerhard-schroeder.de.

The sleek design - all flash animation, interactivity and webchats - betrays nothing of the troubles which have been rocking the SPD camp.

gerhard-schroeder.de
First lady Doris writes a regular column
Instead, Mr Schroeder's policies for his hoped-for second term are summarised in bite-sized chunks accompanied by pictures of the Chancellor in situ - warmly welcomed by everyone from grime-covered workers to grateful Afghans.

And the first lady also plays her part, producing regular columns for the site, though the relevance of her debut - on the importance of the internet in the modern family - to the election campaign is not immediately clear.

Online battle

Mr Schroeder's personal site is just part of the arsenal of online campaigning by the SPD - flanked by kampa02.de which takes in the overall party campaign and nicht-regierungsfaehig.de ("unfit to govern") which brutally satirises the conservative (CDU/CSU) and liberal (FDP) opposition.

stoiber.de
Stoiber: Less at ease in the web world
"The internet is not the medium with which the election will be won but you cannot do without it," SPD spokesman Hannes Schwarz told BBC News Online.

"The election can be lost if the internet presentation is bad."

Mr Schroeder's challenger, Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, seems less at ease in the online world.

In a rather formal opening message on his website, Mr Stoiber invites his readers to get to know him as a "private man" "statesman" and "candidate".

Compared to Mr Schroeder's site, the design and presentation seem cluncky.

A "day in the life" of Mr Stoiber emphasises his busy schedule, backed up by comments from his press officer.

"Many people who work with him are astonished how concentrated and fresh Edmund Stoiber is when he starts his day although he has only had a few hours' sleep," he enthuses.

Policies, however, are hard to find, although there is the option to download the entire, 70-page manifesto for the truly dedicated.

Cyber cover-up?

The two men's online images serve only to emphasise the publicly perceived differences between them - Mr Schroeder urbane, Mr Stoiber provincial.

But that may not be to the Bavarian's disadvantage.

Many Germans are still not entirely at ease with Mr Schroeder's designer Deutschland.

And as each day seems to bring more revelations of scandal and corruption in German politics, there is a danger that flashy design may be seen as a cover-up.

See also:

18 Jul 02 | Europe
17 Jul 02 | Media reports
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