Germany probes online 'vote-sale'
BERLIN, Germany -- The German authorities are reported to be investigating suspected attempts to buy and sell votes ahead of Sunday's general election.
On Sunday, the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported that a company called Fortschritt, based in Kiel, was offering cash for votes on its Web site, cashvote.com.
The site offers people 10 euros each for their votes and asks them to fill in a form undertaking to cast them as instructed.
At the same time, it offers buyers the chance to purchase either bulk packages of votes at fixed prices or direct votes in specific constituencies at a price to be negotiated. There is, however, no way of guaranteeing that any pledges will be honoured.
Bild quoted a cashvote.com spokesman as saying: "Our vote packages are much sought after. Even parties have shown a keen interest."
Johann Hahlen, the official organising Sunday's poll, told the paper: "I have learned of several cases on the internet. We immediately warned the operators of the sites and called in the relevant state prosecutor's offices."
But on Monday, cashvote.com told CNN: "Dealing with votes on cashvote.com was only and exclusively fictitious. At no time did we deal with votes, pay for votes or demand money for votes and we never had the intention to do something like that.
"All statistics concerning this issue are invented. We never had any technical preconditions for a potential deal and trade with votes like that."
The London-based Guardian newspaper said another attempt to trade a vote was made through the small-ads section of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper. It said a reader offered his vote in exchange for a job.
German voters have also offered to sell ballots on a major internet auction site.
Dr. Rolf Krueger, criminal law expert in Munster, Germany, told CNN: "Everyone who offers his vote to sell should be fined or may even be imprisoned for up to five years."
The September 22 election is proving to be one of the closest fought campaigns in recent years and every vote will count.
Opinion polls show the Social Democrats of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder narrowly ahead of the Christian Democrats, led by Edmund Stoiber.
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