The German elections differ from the UK versions in many ways, one of them being the profusion of small posters which sprout from almost every lamp-post. Clearly height is a vital statistic as proximity to bored or satirically minded passers-by leave these campaign ads open to mocking ‘modification’ as evidenced by the Die Linke poster seen here. Some parties, notably the CDU, have the dosh to erect larger more expansive affairs but, here in Berlin at least, billboards are the exception. But while Berliners have been spared something along the nauseating lines of the airbrushed earnestness of Cameron’s moony gaze of 2010, they have had to endure an oversize picture of Merkel’s famous inverted diamond hand gesture near the central station. This is clearly meant to convey calm, states-woman-ship and a sense of Business as usual (capital B intended). The slogans on the posters have been interesting, with a prevalence of the word ‘statt’ which means instead of – We’ll give you this instead of that – in other words. One of the starkest I saw was in Marzahn, an area of Plattenbau (multi-storey seventies style blocks). The poster stated ‘Maria statt Sharia’. It had a picture of two women. ‘Maria’ was blonde and white, while the woman representing ‘Sharia’ was wearing a traditional Muslim black face veil or Niqab. Other posters nearby also showed cartoon Turks seated on a flying carpet with a slogan along the lines of ‘safe journey home’. Marzahn is still predominantly white with some Turkish inhabitants but it is also where, unfortunately, a group of recent Syrian refugees have been housed, not altogether a ‘safe’ haven. These obnoxious posters were, of course, those from the far right, neo-nazi NPD and I never saw them anywhere else in Berlin. Other use of ‘statt’ appeared on some Die Linke posters, one I particularly liked being ‘fair pensions instead of bottle collection’, a reference to the highly widespread practice by especially older men of rooting around in bins for empty soda bottles to collect the Pfand or deposit. The Die Linke posters generally had very clear slogans without frills or even colour, this endeared me to them, though I have no vote whatsoever.
One of the other differences is the relative sobriety in the conduct of the candidates. Merkel, for all her neo-Con credentials and monetary mindset, is no Thatcher when it comes to posturing or speechifying. The Germans have had their fill of ideologues and if that means things are slightly boring then, maybe it’s a small price to pay. It will all be decided tomorrow, another difference being the German election happens on a sensibly chosen Sunday.
I hope it won’t be another two years before I comment here though there is a certain symmetry in the space between Einheitstag (unity day) to Wahl (election night)