Let them eat cake, 2022 style

marble courtyard palace of versailles versailles france

Germany went to the polls a year ago, although it feels more like a decade now. The new government was sworn in less than ten months ago on December 8. It had what must have been one of the roughest starts in the history of the Federal Republic, what with the ongoing pandemic, the war, the energy and cost of living crises and the ongoing climate crisis.

The incoming three-party coalition billed itself as an alliance for progress, which was a shrewd move: analyses of their respective manifestos by Marc Debus over at Mannheim show that they broadly agree on social-cultural issues but diverge on economic and fiscal policies.

Even in a more forgiving environment, this was bound to lead to conflicts within the coalition eventually. Under the current conditions, it helps to explain why two of the coalition’s leading men – Christian Lindner of the FDP and Robert Habeck of the Greens – are doing their best to block and outmanoeuvre each other, which in turn contributes to the government’s slide in the polls.

A spoof campaign poster featuing Christian Lindner
No money for the train? Drive a Porsche. Simples.

That brings me to this gem. One of the government’s most popular policies so far was the so-called 9-Euro-ticket, which gave access to all local and regional forms of public transport, anywhere in Germany, for a whole month, for the price of a takeaway pizza. This (wildly successful but sadly temporary) measure was the brainchild of the Greens. In return, the FDP got a temporary rebate on petrol and fuel. The former was more popular than the latter, and a broad coalition of civil society actors campaigned for an extension of the offer beyond August, pointing out that very affordable public transport is not just good for the environment but also a boon for the less well off – not exactly the electorate of the FDP, by the way..

Lindner (who is not only the minister for finance and the leader of Germany’s most pro-business party but also somewhat of a Porsche aficionado) nixed this idea, not just because he wants to go back to balanced budgets and is unwilling to save some money by, say, building fewer motorways, but also because he saw a “free lunch mentality” behind the proposal.

Yes, he said it like that, and this resulted in considerable backlash, but mostly from people who wouldn’t vote FDP anyway. Some, however, turned their anger into art. The poster, which popped up at my local commuter rail station, closely resembles the design that the FDP has used in their recent campaigns, including the large black-and-white picture of Lindner. The caption paraphrases Marie Antoinette: “No money for a ticket? Let them drive a Porsche”. But ours is a peaceful town, so his neck is safe for now.

MLPD: the internationalist boys are back in town

Everyone who cares about German elections is very excited by now, because it’s just over a week until election day. And I realise that I have not blogged about this election at all. One reason is that I have not set up a poll aggregator this time round. There are enough better-run sites doing this now, and so I have taken all my polling enthusiasm straight to twitter. The other reason is that there is still a pandemic, and that there are so many other things to do.

But right on the campaign’s homestretch, I have discovered a whole (rather long and reasonably affluent) street covered in MLPD posters. “What, in the name of all that is unholy, is the MLPD?” I hear you cry.

The MLPD, or Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany, is the ultimate splinter party. It came into being in 1982 as the successor of the Communist Worker Association (KABD), itself the result of the 1972 merger of the KAB/ML and the KPD/ML-Revolutionary Path. The latter had been a breakaway from the KPD/ML, which in turn was a tiny Maoist party that moved on to the Albanian brand of communism. Somewhere along the way, some players had been expelled from the old Communist party (the KPD), which by then must have been illegal for a decade or so. Are you still with me?

MLDP Poster International Solidarity
Wait, what? I know that guy!

The MLPD, however, is still enamoured to Maoism and rejects the post-1950s Soviet Union as revisionist. According to the annual reports of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the MLPD is a left-wing extremist organisation. It is also surprisingly wealthy (thanks to some large donations), and sometimes successful in local politics in unexpected places (Swabian towns? Come on!), where it works with local groups to form lists with less offending names.

For the last couple of federal elections, it has formed an alliance (the internationalist list they put on the posters) with like-minded foreign organisations that have a presence in Germany. In 2017, they won just under 30,000 of the PR votes, equivalent to 0.1 per cent. Historically, that was an excellent result: they used to get about 0.01 per cent of the vote. According to the Office, the MLPD has 2,800 members, and one must really wonder what motivates them. Various colleagues have pointed out that the party looks and operates like a (political) sect.

MLDP Poster Environment Pensions
Save the environment by working less. Or something along those lines.

However tenuous, there is a bit of personal connection, too. Back in 1982, when the FDP changed sides, removed my hero Helmut Schmidt, and made Kohl Chancellor, I was outraged (and all of 13 years old). When Kohl manufactured a lost vote of confidence that winter so that he could get the 1983 election, I was earnestly listening to experts who claimed that this move was slick, but unconstitutional. The President and then the Constitutional Court disagreed. When Kohl then ran again in 1987 I would have loved to vote against him, but I was three weeks too young.

So my first chance to express my general dissatisfaction came with the 1989 European Election. Also, I was doing national service. That meant that I had a lot of spare time that I used for reading campaign materials, watch the party broadcasts, and think about how to best invest my shiny new vote. Everyone I talked to thought that the EP was as second order as it gets, and that one could and should freely experiment. So for a time, I toyed with the idea of sticking it to the man by voting for something seriously, hardcore left, like, you know, these MLPD chaps. This wonderful clip finally helped me make up my mind.

Europawahl 1989 - Wahlwerbespot MLPD

Endorsement by Photoshop?

Beyond Peer’s Finger

Ready for another instalment of our series on odd campaign posters? Peer Steinbrück’s finger has raised the stakes quite a bit, but since a magazine cover is technically not a campaign poster, I’m not going to dignify this abomination with a link. Last time around, I have pondered the question if those people posing for the pirate party are indeed members/candidates, and @senficon has kindly clarified matters a bit.

Endorsement by Photoshop? 1
Together. Really?

This week, I’m focusing once more on the local candidate for the CDU. While the seat is open (the sitting MP is retiring), it has in fact never been won by the CDU, so a little endorsement from the boss can’t hurt, yes? Thinking along the same lines, our man has put up a large billboard picturing him and the Chancellor. But does it show him with the Chancellor?


How Much Time Does a Chancellor Have for Local Candidates?

Here is a simple calculation: A professional shooting would take at least 15 minutes per candidate. The CDU is contesting all seats outside Bavaria. That would be 244/4=61 hours. Even if the Chancellor would endorse only those 65 candidates who are running in non-Bavarian districts not won by the CDU in 2009, this would amount to two normal working days.

On his own

That seems a bit excessive for a woman who – besides things such as popping over to meet the other G20 club members, messing up saving the Euro and running a national campaign – is busy ruling the country. Plus: He looks a lot less streamlined on his own posters: So I was wondering, just wondering if the very capable people at CDU headquarters have come up with a little Photoshop template that candidates may download from some internal server. By the way, “Gemeinsam” means “together”. Is that the CDU’s response to the SPD’s ingenious “It’s the ‘we’ that matters”, or a not-so-subtle  irony marker? Just asking.

Electoral Relay Race: Is Incumbency Advantage Transferable?

Trying to Rub off the Incumbency Advantage from the Old Guy
Trying to Rub off the Incumbency Advantage from the Old Guy

The local MP is stepping down after a mere 19 years, and the local mayor wants his job. The outgoing MP won his seat five times in a row on a plurality of the Erststimmen. Structural factors aside, this looks like an incumbency advantage (though the 2009 result was rather close).

Can he pass this on to the successor? In the 2010 UK General Election, party incumbency (as opposed to personal incumbency) did not make a difference for new candidates.  I’m not sure if it will play in the 2013 election over here, but I doubt that this poster will help.