This once-thriving industrial powerhouse is undergoing a political and cultural transformation as the country prepares for federal elections on 24 September

Days away from Germany’s federal elections, one city in west Germany is undergoing something of a political transformation, threatening to shift allegiances in what is being seen as a key test of Angela Merkel’s popularity.

On the face of it, the city is an unlikely political weather-vane. Nicknamed “Germany’s Detroit”, Oberhausen in the Ruhr Valley is a place at the tail-end of decades of industrial decline. These days, it is better known for being the former home of Paul the psychic football-loving octopus (of 2010 World Cup fame), Europe’s largest shopping centre, and, rather incongruously, the world’s most prestigious avant garde short film festival.

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