Word of the Week: Elefantenrunde

Sep 20, 2013

© dpa - Report Enlarge image (© dpa - Report) On the night of the Bundestag election, leading German politicians will gather in Berlin for a televised Elefantenrunde. Directly translated, this German term means “elephant round.” But the definition of this word has only little to do with the trunk-nosed terrestrial giants.

Although the word Elefantenrunde is sometimes used to describe the round-up of elephants at a circus, it is more commonly used to describe a televised debate between leading representatives of German political parties. For more than three decades, leading politicians of the main German political parties have gathered for debate around the time of the Bundestag election. Traditionally, these lively discussions – some of which have gone on for hours – are aired on the German TV stations ARD and ZDF.

© dpa Enlarge image (© dpa) But why name this serious political debate after a round-up of elephants?The term is meant to express the ponderousness of both the candidates and the debate itself. Like a 14,000 lb. African Elephant, each of the leading political candidates figuratively carries great weight as a top representative of their party. In previous years, the Elefantenrunde was the last major debate before the election, thereby carrying great weight in the parties’ electoral campaigns.  Thus, the term “elephant” was incorporated to demonstrate the significance of this political event.

Between 1972 and 1987, the Elefantenrunde was held before the election, often on the night before. In some election years, the debate was also called Drei Tage vor der Wahl, which means, “Three Days Before the Election”. But during the 1990, 1994 and 1998 elections, Chancellor Helmut Kohl refused to partake in the debates and since then, the Elefantenrunde has evolved significantly. It currently takes place on the eve after the election, when leading politicians gather to debate and analyze the results on live television.

© dpa - Bildarchiv Enlarge image (© dpa - Bildarchiv) The term has also been used loosely to describe other televised debates between leading members of opposing political parties at both state and local levels, and both Austria and Switzerland have adopted their own versions of the Elefantenrunde. But the traditional “elephant round-up” aired by ARD and ZDF will take place on Sept. 22 at 8:15 p.m.  Also coined the Berliner Runde, this discussion will be moderated by journalists Thomas Baumann and Peter Frey. With the 18th Bundestag election behind them, political leaders of the winning candidates will be able to “blow the trumpet” in this year’s federal Elefantenrunde.

© Germany.info

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