On some 750 posters tacked all over the Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain-Prenzlauer Berg-Ost parliamentary district, Bundestag candidate Vera Lengsfeld is pictured next to fellow conservative Christian Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel – both sporting a daring décolleté.
The photograph of Merkel is already well-known. It was taken when she wore an uncharacteristically revealing ball gown to the inauguration of Norway's national opera house in April 2008. Paired with a photo Lengsfeld in a similarly low-cut number, the poster reads, Wir haben mehr zu bieten, or “We have more to offer.”
Lengsfeld on Tuesday defended the poster against widespread criticism it was both tasteless and sexist. But she admitted she had not asked Merkel for permission to use the revealing photo.
“It's not sex that my poster offers, but rather humour and that's what counts,” Lengsfeld told TV news channel N24. “Those missing the point of self-irony can't be helped.”
The Lengsfeld-Merkel picture headlined newspapers across the nation on Tuesday, but according to daily Der Tagesspiegel, the 57-year-old's poster is only one of many edgy campaigns that are unique to her electoral district.
Lengsfeld's environmentalist Green party opponent Christian Ströbele, to whom she lost the election in 2005, is using a pop art poster created by cartoonist Gerhard Seyfried.
Meanwhile centre-left Social Democratic candidate Björn Böhning and hard-line socialist Left party candidate Halina Wawzyniak have also hung campaign posters that defy party norms. Böhning's poster looks like a Barack Obama campaign image and uses wordplay. Wawzyniak's shows her bare back with the tattoo “Socialist,” and a slogan that reads Mit Arsch in der Hose in den Bundestag, a colloquialism that literally means “With trousers full of arse in the Bundestag,” a reference to plucky politics.
The candidates vying for attention in a district known for its alternative residents, and Lengsfeld herself has little to lose by literally putting herself on display. In 2005, the former East German civil rights activist's party gained just nine percent of the district's vote in 2005, while the Green party garnered more than 43 percent.
On Tuesday, Lengsfeld wrote on her blog that the poster has been a “total success,” and that the CDU was not irked by her departure from the party's traditionally conservative aesthetic.
She also lauded rival Wawzyniak's poster, saying “she also stands for a culture of discussion that argues but doesn't put people down.”