Story highlights

Voters in Germany go to polls this weekend; campaign dominated by economic issues

CNN's 15 Second Debates have challenged candidates to answer tough questions

Debate takes the form of a series of 15 second Instagram videos

CNN's Peter Bale says project could offer glimpse of political discussions of the future

CNN —  

Germany’s voters will cast their ballots this weekend to decide who will lead the country through a challenging time as it grapples with its leading role in the Eurozone crisis.

But just as the world has changed over the four years since the last election in Germany, so too has the way election issues are discussed. So, ahead of the polls, CNN invited the country’s six leading parties to take part in a social media debate.

Angela Merkel: Europe’s Mrs. Nein

Journalists from across Europe have posed a series of tough questions via 15-second Instagram video clips, challenging representatives from the parties to respond to them – and to each other – in the same short, sharp and shareable way.

And while the questions have featured a range of hot topics such as Syria, Turkey and green energy, as on the campaign trail, it is the economy which has dominated the discussion.

Christoph Teuner, of German television channel n-tv, asked whether German taxpayers would get the short end of the stick from costly attempts to fight the crisis in the Eurozone.

Volker Berkhout of the Pirates Party, sounded a gloomy note: “There will be a rude awakening. The financial crisis is threatening democracy in Europe. We want owners and creditors to be liable for the losses… losses should not be socially mutualized any further.”

But Norbert Barthle of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), insisted: “Germany and its people are benefitting considerably from the euro. The risks are manageable and transparent. It would only be a rude awakening if the opposition pushed through their plans for the mutualisation of debt.”

Andrea Nahles of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) disagreed: “The truth is not being told. Another rescue package is due for Greece. The question is what we are spending the money for. Mrs Merkel is one-sided in her focus on saving, and that will not bring the Greek economy back on its feet.”

While Roland Klaus of the new anti-euro party Alternatives for Germany (AfD) offered a prediction – and a potential solution: “After the election, Greece as well as Ireland and Portugal will need further billions, without this being of any help to people in those countries. That’s why we’re calling for a separate currency for the crisis countries, allowing them to recover using their own strengths.”

Under the rules of the debate, each question is set first thing in the morning; the parties have until midnight to post their responses via Instagram. If they wish, they can also offer rebuttals to their opponents’ responses.

Peer Steinbrueck: The man who stirred up German politics

Viewers watching the clips are asked share them online, and to pick their favourite – and least favourite – answers.

Peter Bale, vice president of digital at CNN International said the innovative debate format reflected the fresh new ways in which information and conversations were being shared online: “Short video is the medium of the moment, as Instagram and Vine are demonstrating.

“We think this experiment in Germany offers a chance to try a new approach in this exciting area. We’re always keen to innovate in story-telling and this was a great opportunity to try something new.

“And just as the decisions made by German voters on Sunday could have a lasting impact on the future of the eurozone, so CNN’s 15 Second Debates could offer a glimpse of the way political discussions are carried out in the years to come.”

See more of CNN’s 15 Second Debates