It refers to a political campaign strategy adopted by the Merkel government whereby few, if any, public statements are made about major, contentious issues, thereby giving the opposition little opportunity to attack the government or demarcate their own position. The strategy also involves explicitly agreeing with and "stealing" non-contentious policies from the opposition. The net result is to persuade many voters to simply stay away from the polls, but crucially to persuade more of the opposition voters to stay away than your own voters.
How staggeringly and marvelously cynical!
For those of you who read German, here is a Wikipedia entry:
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymmetris ... ilisierung
This suggests that the term has been around (the least in German) since 2006 and came to prominence in the German federal elections of 2009. It was a new one on me. It appears to be gaining further currency in the run-up to the elections this year.
Here is a recent example in translation:
http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21 ... l-vincible
And another one (translated) from "Der Spiegel":
http://www.spiegel.de/international/ger ... 330-2.html
I also found this original English document that predates the earliest German use cited in Wikipedia.
So come on Ken, let's have the low-down!ASYMMETRICAL DEMOBILISATION
Thus, when voters see declining levels of competition, they become less likely to deem it worth their time and effort to learn anything about candidates and parties and cast a vote. But not all voters will react equally. Opposition supporters and undecided voters should be more likely to see declining utility in bearing the costs of registering, gathering information and voting than supporters of the winning party (for whom the act of voting for a winner is likely to provide some psychological benefits that compensate for the costs of voting). Thus, over time, the ranks of the abstainers are likely to consist of disproportionately larger shares of opposition supporters and undecided voters. If unchecked, this dynamic can produce smaller and smaller electorates at each succeeding election that are increasingly predisposed to support the governing party,creating the appearance of increasing popular support for the governing party, even as its actual active support across the population may be declining.
http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_10560-1522 ... 0328103113 (2005)