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Thread: Merkel suffers historic defeat in German state elections

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    Administrator Tarek Morgen's Avatar
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    Merkel suffers historic defeat in German state elections

    By JUERGEN BAETZ, Associated Press Juergen Baetz, Associated Press – 37 mins ago

    BERLIN – German chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have suffered a historic defeat in a state ballot after almost six decades in power there, preliminary results showed Sunday, in an election that amounted to a referendum on the party's stance on nuclear power.

    The opposition anti-nuclear Greens doubled their voter share in Baden-Wuerttemberg state and seemed poised to win their first-ever state governorship, according to preliminary results released by the state electoral commission.

    "We have secured what amounts to a historic electoral victory," the Greens' leader Winfried Kretschmann told party members in Stuttgart.

    The Greens secured 24.2 percent of the vote, with the center-left Social Democrats down 2 percentage points at 23.1 percent. That secures them a narrow lead to form a coalition government with a combined 71 seats in the state legislature, the results showed.

    Representatives of all parties said the elections were overshadowed by Japan's nuclear crisis, turning them into a popular vote on the country's future use of nuclear power — which a majority of Germans oppose as they view it as inherently dangerous.

    Conservative governor Stefan Mappus, who has long been an advocate of nuclear energy, conceded defeat and said his party's lead in the polls dwindled away in the wake of the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear facility.

    "Voters were touched by the terrible events in Japan, those images still haunt people today," he said.

    Mappus' Christian Democrats secured 39 percent of the vote or 60 seats in the legislature. Its coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, saw its voter share halved to 5.3 percent — 7 seats.

    The disaster in Japan triggered Merkel's government last week to order a temporary shutdown of seven of the country's older reactors, two of them in Baden-Wuerttemberg state, pending thorough safety investigations.

    But the chancellor's abrupt about-face has raised doubts about her credibility in a country that remembers well the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine that spewed radiation across Europe.

    A center-left government a decade ago penned a plan to abandon the technology for good by 2021, but Merkel's government last year amended it to extend the plants' lifetime by an average of 12 years.

    The government has now put that plan on hold, and the opposition wants to abolish the use of nuclear power for good by 2020. Germany currently gets about a quarter of its energy from nuclear power, but plans to eventually replace it with renewable energies.

    Merkel's party has held power in the region around Stuttgart — home to some 11 million people — since 1953 and the ballot was seen as the most important of Germany's seven state elections this year.

    [....]


    Full article here:

    Merkel's suffers historic defeat in German state - Yahoo! News

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    Administrator Tarek Morgen's Avatar
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    This of course leads right into the speculation who else might lose his job in the federal government, with the current Minister for Economics and Technology of the FDP (liberal/junior partner in the government), Rainer Brüderle, being the most likely victim.

    A close second would be current foreign minister, vice chancellor and FDP-chairman. He has long been in the centre of critic after the FDP dropped sharply in poll numbers. He is often judged as incompetent in his job as foreign minister and much of the blame of the recent loses in state elections gets put on him.

    Some even doubt if Merkel will be able to continue to govern, but it is unlikely she would step down or seek new elections. She has ensured that there is no one to replace her left in her own party and now the conservatives are stuck with her.

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    Brüderle will probably be replaced by Rösler, that Vietnamese guy who's Health Minister or something like that. Was already peddled this afternoon. Westerwelle won't be dropped, after all he pretty much owns the party.

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    An t-aimiréal chléthúil Senior Contributor crooks's Avatar
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    Followed it with some interest, superb that the left has won, coupled with the trouncing of France's Conservatives tonight in the second round of cantonal elections, spectacular night for the broader European left movement, be it Social Democratic, Socialist or Green.

    Bit of a slap in the face to Angie as well, though perhaps to a degree it's political gravity. Commentators here suggested that a left win was bad for our negotiating position with Germany, that it would force the German government into a more aggressive negotiating position than had they won. Even so, hope they'll be having some well-deserved (eco-friendly) hoolies in Stuttgart tonight!
    Last edited by crooks; 27 Mar 11, at 23:15.
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    The left spectrum hasn't really won. The Greens in Baden-Württemberg are a conservative party at their core.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarek Morgen
    BERLIN – German chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have suffered a historic defeat in a state ballot after almost six decades in power there, preliminary results showed Sunday, in an election that amounted to a referendum on the party's stance on nuclear power.
    What an odd subject for an election to run on

    Take it everything else in Germany is tip-top ?

    You know, the more worldy things like economy & quality of life.

    Guess the Russians will be very chuffed about this

    What else are the non-nuclear power stations in Germany going to run on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Guess the Russians will be very chuffed about this
    What else are the non-nuclear power stations in Germany going to run on.
    Germany doesn't import uranium from Russia to any large extent. For enriched uranium, 18% are sourced from Russia, for natural uranium it's about 9% from the whole CIS (1.8% from Russia). France in comparison is far more reliant on Russia for enriched uranium.

    Of course in reality it wasn't a "referendum on nuclear power". It's the CDU (afterwards) and conservative media that claim it is. However there were exit polls on that question at voting stations, and those showed that no one trusts the CDU and FDP parties on the issue anyway - 87% of voters thought they were intentionally misdirected on the issue by the CDU, 89% thought so for the FDP. This includes actual CDU/FDP voters, who also were overwhelmingly against their own parties on this issue.

    The below are exit poll results for Baden-Württemberg:

    There were four big issues that decided the election for people (multiple choices were possible):
    - 45% of voters : Energy and Environmental Politics
    - 34% of voters : Economy
    - 23% of voters : Social Justice
    - 22% of voters : Education

    Most important problems:
    - 47% of voters : Nuclear Politics and Environment (vastly up from 2006, when it was 7%)
    - 34% of voters : Education Politics (slightly up)
    - 17% of voters : Unemployment (vastly down from 2006, when it was something like 70%)

    59% of voters think that a change in nuclear politics can only come about under a Green government.
    68% of voters think the Greens being part of the government is a good idea.
    78% of voters think that Merkel's turnabout regarding nuclear politics was just a campaign maneuver.

    59% of voters support a change of government (only 56% voted against the current one!!).
    41% of voters are satisfied with the politics of the current government (see also one above).

    It should be noted explicitly though that the Fukushima disaster didn't really influence the results much. The end result mirrors surveys and polls taken months before that pretty closely.
    Last edited by kato; 28 Mar 11, at 01:13.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    What else are the non-nuclear power stations in Germany going to run on.
    The power mix (electricity) in Germany for 2010 was:
    - 57% fossil fuels (24% brown coal, 19% black coal, 14% gas)*
    - 22% nuclear
    - 17% renewable (6.2% wind, 5.6% biomass, 3.2% water, 2.0% sun)
    - 5% other (e.g. trash burning)

    The target of the Greens is to replace nuclear power entirely by renewable sources (by 2020), and effectively leave fossil fuel usage as-is, improving efficiency of old coal and gas plants. The federal government (conservative) actually had the same numbers planned (i.e. about 38% renewable), but would have shut off some fossil fuel plants and retained nuclear power. Some renewable energy lobby groups claim up to 47% renewable is reachable by 2020.

    * sources, roughly:
    brown coal - domestic 100%
    black coal - domestic 25%, Russia 25%, Columbia 15%, Australia 7.5%, USA 7.5%, other 20%
    gas - Russia 30%, Norway 25%, Netherlands 20%, other 25%

    The actual power mix varies widely between German states and power supply companies. The primary supplier in Baden-Württemberg for example (EnBW) has 57% nuclear in its mix (and 11% renewable), owing to the fact that we have the most nuclear power plants per person here.
    Last edited by kato; 28 Mar 11, at 03:51.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    Germany doesn't import uranium from Russia to any large extent. For enriched uranium, 18% are sourced from Russia, for natural uranium it's about 9% from the whole CIS (1.8% from Russia). France in comparison is far more reliant on Russia for enriched uranium.
    Was referring to more fossil fuels that would come from Russia. Thought France gets more of its Ur from Chad than Russia.

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    Of course in reality it wasn't a "referendum on nuclear power". It's the CDU (afterwards) and conservative media that claim it is.

    The below are exit poll results for Baden-Württemberg:

    There were four big issues that decided the election for people (multiple choices were possible):
    - 45% of voters : Energy and Environmental Politics
    - 34% of voters : Economy
    - 23% of voters : Social Justice
    - 22% of voters : Education

    Most important problems:
    - 47% of voters : Nuclear Politics and Environment (vastly up from 2006, when it was 7%)
    - 34% of voters : Education Politics (slightly up)
    - 17% of voters : Unemployment (vastly down from 2006, when it was something like 70%)
    Nuclear politics & Energy seems to be a big issue for Baden-Wurtemburg.

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    The actual power mix varies widely between German states and power supply companies. The primary supplier in Baden-Württemberg for example (EnBW) has 57% nuclear in its mix (and 11% renewable), owing to the fact that we have the most nuclear power plants per person here.
    57% in BW, thats why they want less nuclear. Am guessing that BW is the state with the highest nuclear so a green win here is effectively a win against nuclear in all germany. That is of course if other states are unwilling to build more nuclear stations to make up for the loss in BW.

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    The power mix (electricity) in Germany for 2010 was:
    - 57% fossil fuels (24% brown coal, 19% black coal, 14% gas)*
    - 22% nuclear
    - 17% renewable (6.2% wind, 5.6% biomass, 3.2% water, 2.0% sun)
    - 5% other (e.g. trash burning)

    The target of the Greens is to replace nuclear power entirely by renewable sources (by 2020), and effectively leave fossil fuel usage as-is, improving efficiency of old coal and gas plants.
    Right, this is the big one. Is it feasible and how much more is it going to cost ?

    Cannot imagine it would be cheaper than the status quo. This is effectively a vote for higher energy bills or self-imposed curb on energy consumption.

    Alternatives become feasible only when energy costs are relatively high anyway. This happens either if fuel is in short supply or by artifically interfering in the market.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Was referring to more fossil fuels that would come from Russia. Thought France gets more of its Ur from Chad than Russia.
    Correct for natural uranium, but for enriched (ready-to-use) uranium they import something like 97% from Russia. Both France and Germany also do their own enrichment though, so this is a relatively minor issue. Germany mostly gets natural uranium traded in from EU sources who buy it somewhere in Africa etc.


    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Nuclear politics & Energy seems to be a big issue for Baden-Wurtemburg.
    It's the big item that's foremost on people's minds with Fukushima. It does not hold as big a sway as other topics did previously though, if an item is a really big, current issue then it usually garners 60-80% in such exit polls (like the unemployment situation did five years ago).

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    57% in BW, thats why they want less nuclear. Am guessing that BW is the state with the highest nuclear so a green win here is effectively a win against nuclear in all germany.
    BW is the state with some of the oldest nuclear plants. BW has four reactors running, one BWR and three PWR, all owned by EnBW. Due to pressure from Fukushima, the BWR and the oldest PWR were shut down two weeks ago (on order from the old state government).

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    That is of course if other states are unwilling to build more nuclear stations to make up for the loss in BW.
    All planning for new nuclear stations in Germany - with one exception - was stopped in 1995. Since June 14th 2000 (had a Red/Green coalition at federal level then) building new nuclear power stations is outlawed, the government may not issue new permits for any.

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Is it feasible and how much more is it going to cost ?
    100-150 billion Euro. Roundabout

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Cannot imagine it would be cheaper than the status quo. This is effectively a vote for higher energy bills or self-imposed curb on energy consumption.
    Ah, but the status quo would need investment too. All nuclear power stations were slated to be shut down originally by 2022, the federal government prolonged that to a "by 2040" after long lobby work from power supply companies.
    Regarding higher energy bills, nuclear power is heavily subsidized, actually receiving the most subsidies (per KWh) of any power form produced in Germany. Of course the utility companies will try to make some money off the people's backs, but there are legal ways to curtail this. Regarding the curb on consumption - the German population is declining.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Was referring to more fossil fuels that would come from Russia.
    Electricity ultimately sourced from Russia: ~10% (fossil, nuclear)
    Electricity ultimately sourced from other countries: ~40% (fossil, nuclear)
    Completely domestically sourced electricity: ~50% (fossil, renewable)

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    Here's a try at explaining the voting system in Baden-Württemberg - since i've heard from American expats that it's actually quite a nice way to "adjust" a first-past-the-post concept. It's slightly complicated.

    First off, everyone in Baden-Württemberg has a single vote. Baden-Württemberg is split into 70 voting districts, each of which contains 108,000 +-15% voters (ie. 91,800 to 124,200 voters). The borders of voting districts conform to political districts, i.e. do not go across political district borders.

    Each voting district elects a direct candidate to the parliament in a first-past-the-post system. In this election, 60 direct mandates went to CDU candidates, 9 went to Green candidates and 1 went to the SPD.

    As a second step, 50 indirect mandates are distributed. To get these, all 120 nominal seats are given to parties at state level according to their share of the ballot using the Sainte Lague dividing concept. Of these 120, the CDU therefore gets 51, the SPD gets 30, the Greens get 32 and the FDP gets 7.

    These seats of each party get distributed to the four Regierungspräsidien (RP; administrative provinces) according to the voter share a party may get there.

    This resulted in:
    RP Stuttgart - CDU 19, SPD 11, Greens 12, FDP 3 (total 45)
    RP Karlsruhe - CDU 12, SPD 8, Greens 8, FDP 2 (total 30)
    RP Freiburg - CDU 10, SPD 6, Greens 7, FDP 1 (total 24)
    RP Tübingen - CDU 10, SPD 5, Greens 5, FDP 1 (total 21)

    Now we obviously have a mismatch with the direct candidates that were elected. In order to adjust for this, the number of representatives in each RP is raised, and the seats handed out according to voter share.

    For example, RP Karlsruhe has 12 CDU seats above; however, 16 CDU representatives were elected. Hence those 16 seats now have to reflect the 470,955 votes the CDU got in RP Karlsruhe. The end result is that the CDU gets its 16 seats, but the SPD is raised from 8 to 10 seats, the greens from 8 to 9 seats and the FDP retains 2 seats.

    This is done for every RP.

    We then end up with:
    RP Stuttgart - CDU 23, SPD 14, Greens 14, FDP 3
    RP Karlsruhe - CDU 16, SPD 10, Greens 9, FDP 2
    RP Freiburg - CDU 11, SPD 6, Greens 8, FDP 1
    RP Tübingen - CDU 10 SPD 5, Greens 5, FDP 1

    => parliament : CDU 60, SPD 35, Greens 36, FDP 7

    => direct mandate: CDU 60, SPD 1, Greens 9
    => indirect mandate: SPD 34, Greens 27, FDP 7

    In order to find which candidates get elected with an indirect mandate (in addition to those directly elected), we make a list for each party's candidates that didn't get elected. This is also done separately for each RP of course. From these lists for each party, the candidates who garnered the highest voter share in their district get elected.

    For example for the Green candidates that are voted in in RP Karlsruhe, where they got nine seats:

    Greens in district 34 : 36.7% <- directly elected, first past the post
    Greens in district 36 : 29.6% <- directly elected, first past the post
    Greens in district 28 : 30.3% <- elected, seat #3
    Greens in district 27 : 30.2% <- elected, seat #4
    Greens in district 39 : 26.4% <- elected, seat #5
    Greens in district 37 : 24.9% <- elected, seat #6
    Greens in district 33 : 24.6% <- elected, seat #7
    Greens in district 40 : 23.5% <- elected, seat #8
    Greens in district 41 : 23.0% <- elected, seat #9
    Greens in district 31 : 22.4% <- not elected
    Greens in district 30 : 21.5% <- not elected
    etc.

    While this is a proportional representation system, it still favours the party that gets the largest voter share in the ballot (ie. the CDU) - mostly stemming from somewhat odd rounding (largest always gets last distributed seat) in Sainte Lague. It's still better than the d'Hondt dividing concept, which was used in previous elections and favoured the CDU even more. That the seats are distributed via the administrative provinces (instead of at state level) increases this favouring, and is occasionally critized.
    Last edited by kato; 28 Mar 11, at 15:16.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    Correct for natural uranium, but for enriched (ready-to-use) uranium they import something like 97% from Russia. Both France and Germany also do their own enrichment though, so this is a relatively minor issue. Germany mostly gets natural uranium traded in from EU sources who buy it somewhere in Africa etc.
    ok, if renewable is going to replace nuclear then there is no difference in fuel imported from abroad. So it is clear, this decision makes no difference to the Russians.

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    It's the big item that's foremost on people's minds with Fukushima. It does not hold as big a sway as other topics did previously though, if an item is a really big, current issue then it usually garners 60-80% in such exit polls (like the unemployment situation did five years ago).
    yeah, but consider this..

    probability of nuclear accident in BW before fukushima - x
    probability of nuclear accident in BW after fukushima - x (maybe even lower due to extra precaution)

    So there is little to no change in x. You do not get earthquakes or tsunamis in Germany, you are far from the ring of fire. When is the last time there was any nuclear accident in germany ? never, right or if it did very low INES rating.

    But all it takes is just one high profile accident and this explanation does not matter any more.

    NIMBY (not in my back yard) and raus to nuclear power in germany

    We are told it is a democratic decision but this is a populist request in the end.

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    BW is the state with some of the oldest nuclear plants. BW has four reactors running, one BWR and three PWR, all owned by EnBW. Due to pressure from Fukushima, the BWR and the oldest PWR were shut down two weeks ago (on order from the old state government).
    This is a more pertinent point, so of course an upgrade is a reasonable request. But that's not what happens here, its get rid of it completely.

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    All planning for new nuclear stations in Germany - with one exception - was stopped in 1995. Since June 14th 2000 (had a Red/Green coalition at federal level then) building new nuclear power stations is outlawed, the government may not issue new permits for any.
    wonderful, hail green power

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    100-150 billion Euro. Roundabout
    What are the renewable replacements, wind + hydro ?

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    Ah, but the status quo would need investment too. All nuclear power stations were slated to be shut down originally by 2022, the federal government prolonged that to a "by 2040" after long lobby work from power supply companies.
    Regarding higher energy bills, nuclear power is heavily subsidized, actually receiving the most subsidies (per KWh) of any power form produced in Germany. Of course the utility companies will try to make some money off the people's backs, but there are legal ways to curtail this. Regarding the curb on consumption - the German population is declining.
    Sure, but you must consider total investment as a function of the lifetime of the plant, not just the initial costs. My point is if you take this into consideration you will end up with a cheaper solution if you go with nuclear by end of life. Coal is the cheapest but there seems to be more resistance for this.

    But then all that is required is to introduce this legislations & that regulation to make it more expensive. Unfortunately the politics comes before the economics so it is very easy to distort the objective picture.

    About population declining, germany is going to remain #1 in the EU for a long time. France & Uk are not going to overtake germany. Therefore now, with no borders there will be many europeans that will want to work in germany.

    Yes, german population may be declining but there will be a transient non-german population too. This may be enough to help stabilise the population decline. But they will need to pay their power bills.

    Oh, read in my daily today that german ppl were unhappy about merkel's decision in Libya, this was a surprise for me.
    Last edited by Double Edge; 28 Mar 11, at 17:21.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    Here's a try at explaining the voting system in Baden-Württemberg - since i've heard from American expats that it's actually quite a nice way to "adjust" a first-past-the-post concept. It's slightly complicated.
    You mention BW only, does this mean there are different systems elsewhere in the country or all germany uses just one system.

    Also can you explain why there is need to do this 'adjusting' ?

    What is broken with the current system and that this new system fixes.

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    While this is a proportional representation system, it still favours the party that gets the largest voter share in the ballot (ie. the CDU) - mostly stemming from somewhat odd rounding (largest always gets last distributed seat) in Sainte Lague. It's still better than the d'Hondt dividing concept, which was used in previous elections and favoured the CDU even more. That the seats are distributed via the administrative provinces (instead of at state level) increases this favouring, and is occasionally critized.
    Hmm, didn't Netanyahu say PR system is dangerous, a few months back. Presumably, he says this because it allows new parties to maybe get a bigger share in power over the traditional parties with the current system. So its a direct threat for traditional & longer established parties.

    There is an argument that says the system must follow the mood of the country and keep up. Using a static system does not allow this and discourages possibly parties with new ideas. But at the same time it also fosters stability. This is good for the economy in general as it makes things more predictable for companies in terms of laws. The more predictable or less uncertainty in the system, the easier the decisions.

    Stability vs innovation in politics, think the latter could be more expensive over a period of time for less gain. If an issue is so important it should not matter what system is in place because these are free countries anyway with one man, one vote.

    Admittedly, did not get very far with a comparative study of these different systems when the topic came up last time.

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    An t-aimiréal chléthúil Senior Contributor crooks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    The left spectrum hasn't really won. The Greens in Baden-Württemberg are a conservative party at their core.
    Ah so they're more cucumber (green on the outside and inside) than watermelon (green on the outside, red on the inside)?

    Loads of European Green Parties are like that, I always thought the German Greens (alongside the French and Scandinavian ones) were watermelons, though maybe regional parties vary too?

    And looking at that electoral system makes me cry, even though we use the supposedly extremely complex Single-Transferable Vote.
    Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.
    - John Stuart Mill.

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