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Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Monday, 31 August 2009 17:25 UK

'Poll leak' tweets alarm Germans

German voter in Thuringia, 30 August
Germans will vote in a general election on 27 September

The apparent illegal leaking of exit polls for German regional elections has raised concerns weeks before the country's general election.

Forecasts for Sunday's results in Saarland, Thuringia and Saxony appeared on Twitter 90 minutes before polling stations closed in the three states.

Proven leaks are punishable by a fine of 50,000 euros (£44,000; $71,000).

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats fared badly on Sunday despite their lead in national opinion polls.

Nonetheless, Mrs Merkel says she remains confident of winning the federal election in a month's time.

Saxony's state election supervisor, Uwe Reimund Korzen-Krueger, said it was still unclear whether actual exit polls had been leaked.

"If it turns out that the outcomes published before 6pm [on Sunday] were not just based on hearsay but on exit polls," he was quoted as telling German news magazine Der Spiegel, "the legal situation will need to be assessed."

The head of Germany's federal electoral commission, Roderich Egeler, stressed that no exit poll data could be published before the close of polling stations, whether on Twitter or any other medium.

'Democracy damaged'

Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior CDU official in the federal parliament, said the reported leaks were "damaging to democracy".

The assumption is that the information in the Twitter postings was leaked from either within political parties or the media
Spiegel magazine

"There is a danger that an election could be falsified," he told the Cologne newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger.

Joerg van Essen of the Free Democrats, Mrs Merkel's preferred coalition partner, told the same newspaper that such leaks were "unacceptable".

Der Spiegel notes that the results published on Twitter only varied by about a half or one percentage point from the results of the first exit polls shown on television at 1800 (1600 GMT).

"The assumption is that the information in the Twitter postings was leaked from either within political parties or the media, who receive exit poll information earlier in the day so they can prepare speeches or articles," the magazine writes.

One of the Twitter accounts involved belonged to Patrick Rudolph, CDU leader in the Saxon town of Radebeul.

He told Spiegel that he did not know who had written the message and that he had deactivated the account as a result.

The CDU is still enjoying a 15-point opinion poll lead over the Social Democrats for the national election on 27 September.



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SEE ALSO
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30 Aug 09 |  Europe
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