Vera Langsfeld and Berlin Kreuzberg/Friedrichshain - more than bared bosoms to this political story

Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 05:45 pm
There, that headline should engage some readers.

As an addendum of sorts to a trivial, two-year old thread about conservative politician Gabriele Pauli and a latex photoshoot that got her into trouble, I posted some stories about the latest causes for tongue-wagging in German electoral politics.

One of those stories involved nude buttocks and an interracial lesbian couple, but it's the other one that got more attention:

Posters of Angela Merkel's cleavage spice up German election campaign

Billboards of Chancellor Angela Merkel sporting a very revealing low-cut dress have pepped up a German election campaign that has so far struggled to grab public attention.

The election placards have been put up by Vera Lengsfeld, a member of Mrs Merkel's own conservative CDU party, who is running in a left-wing district of Berlin for a seat in parliament in the September 27 poll.


The billboards show photographs of each woman in an evening dress showing plenty of cleavage with the slogan: "We have more to offer" emblazoned over the chancellor's breasts.

Mrs Lengsfeld, a former East German dissident, said she had not cleared the picture beforehand with Mrs Merkel, 55, telling rolling news channel N24: "The chancellor could never have allowed me to do this, otherwise everyone would have wanted to do it."

She added: "I find it amazing how little humour some people have shown over this placard. People always complain that election posters are boring and then as soon as someone does something different, people get annoyed," she said.

Mrs Lengsfeld, 57, said she had 17,000 visitors on her election blog since she shot into the public eye and added: "If only a tenth of them also look at the content of my policies, then I will have reached many more people than I could have done with classic street canvassing."

She will have her work cut out, however, to transform the limelight into success at the ballot box against a popular Green party veteran.

The famous photo of Mrs Merkel's cleavage, taken at the opening of the Oslo Opera House in April 2008, prompted headlines such as "Merkel's Weapons of Mass Destruction" "Deutschland boober alles" in British tabloids.

On Mrs Lengsfeld's election blog, opinion was sharply divided.

"Alex" wrote: "Fantastic idea. Witty, cheeky and funny. I personally never thought I would see such a daring billboard in an otherwise very respectable and serious German election campaign."

But "Lena" had a completely different view, saying: "This billboard is embarrassing and shameful ... how deeply sad that a women has to attract attention with her breasts because she is incapable of clever words and thoughts."

Zeit Online: Vera Lengsfeld will für die CDU in den Bundestag - dabei sollen ihr das eigene Dekolleté und das von Angela Merkel helfen

All of which is just fine and dandy material for a quirky human interest kind of story on politics, but actually, both Lengsfeld and the district she's running in are quite interesting, at least for a political geek ... hence the new thread, see the first post below.
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Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 05:51 pm
I agree with the comment to the effect that people complain about standard political campaign techniques, and now are peeing their pants over someone who has actually used some humor and daring in her campaign. I wouldn't say it was really all that daring either.

On a side note, there is an entire realm of "porno" online which is devoted to "women of a certain age."
0 Replies
Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 05:53 pm
Actually, nimh, none of these stories are "trivial." Thank you very much for keeping us informed!
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Reply Mon 31 Aug, 2009 05:59 pm
I hadn't immediately realised which district Vera Lengsfeld is standing in: it's the Kreuzberg/Friedrichshain/Prenzlauer Berg-East district of Berlin. A district that has a tradition to uphold when it comes to attracting national attention.

Kreuzberg is the famous/notorious bulwark of the countercultural left; the historical home of West-Berlin's squatters movement and the stage for rowdy annual May Day riots. In the last decade or two, however, Turkish immigrants have come to outnumber German leftists.

Neighbouring Friedrichshain is in the former East-Berlin, across the canal the Berlin Wall once looked out on. Before WW2, Friedrichshain was a leftist bulwark. Now it is one of the two centres of alternative culture in East-Berlin, along with the more thoroughly gentrified Prenzlauer Berg. But Friedrichshain also encompasses some of the most pompous communist architecture, and the Karl Marx Allee's Stalinist kitsch is still inhabited by many a matching retired GDR apparatchik.

In short, it's a culturally eclectic district and quite tricky to navigate. But there's one man who has shown he can do it: the Green Party's enfant terrible, Christian Stroebele.

A politician from the party's leftmost wing, Stroebele was refused a safe place on the national party list in 2002. So in something of a defiant candidacy, he stood as Green candidate for the Kreuzberg/Friedrichshain district instead. It seemed a quixotic cause even for this part of town, but he tirelessly criss-crossed the neighbourhood on his bicycle with his trademark red scarf, and talked to anyone who would listen.

He promptly won, eking out a narrow victory with 32% of the vote over his Social-Democrat (29%) and ex-Communist (21%) rivals. In so doing, he became the Greens' first ever MP to be elected as the winner of a district, rather than as part of the seats assigned on the basis of proportional representation.

In 2005, Stroebele was easily re-elected with 43% of the vote, thanks in part to a large number of Social-Democrats crossing over to vote for him. The Greens in his district shocked petit bourgeois Germany again when they successfully spearheaded a campaign to name a street after Rudi Dutschke.

Perhaps unsurprisingly considering all the above, the Christian-Democratic candidate in this district only won 13% and 11% of the vote in 2002 and 2005. So cleavage or no cleavage, Vera Lengsfeld has a tough hill to climb.

Lengsfeld is not just any local politician though, and not your typical Christian-Democrat either.

She hails from the East-Germany state of Thuringia, and in the GDR times was a notable dissident. In the 1980s, she was active in underground peace, civil rights, environmental and religious groups. In 1983, she was banned from employment (Berufsverbot). In 1988, she was arrested and kicked out to the West.

After the Wall fell, Lengsfeld returned and took part in the Round Table negotiations. In 1990, she was elected to the East-German parliament, and after reunification to the new German parliament, for the Green Party. As MP, she drew attention with her protest against the first Gulf War.

When the Stasi's archives opened, Lengsfeld discovered that her own husband had spied on her during communism. In 1996, she broke with the Greens when the party declared itself willing to participate into local coalition governments with the former communist PDS, and together with several other former dissidents who left the Greens at that time joined the Christian-Democrats instead. She stayed in parliament as Christian-Democrat from Thuringia till 2005, when she withdrew her candidacy after trying to be nominated for a district seat and being passed over.

I still don't think Lengsfeld stands a chance in hell to be elected in the Kreuzberg/Friedrichshain district. But she's obviously giving it a spirited run.

Meanwhile, on a sidenote, Lengsfeld's show of bosom seems to have forced other competitors into related stunts. The local candidate for the Left Party (an amalgam of the East-German ex-communists of the PDS and disgruntled West-German laborites who left the Social-Democrats) is making her own bid for attention. On her posters, 36-year old Halina Wawzyniak turns her back to us, pseudo-tattooed "Socialist", and captioned with the somewhat untranslatable slogan "Mit Arsch in der Hose in den Bundestag" [lit. "with ass in the pants into parliament"].

(image from sueddeutsche.de)
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 08:03 am
Your sueddeutsche link shows another cute political poster, nimh.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 08:33 am
nimh wrote:
I still don't think Lengsfeld stands a chance in hell to be elected in the Kreuzberg/Friedrichshain district. But she's obviously giving it a spirited run.

She's Nº 6 on the Berlin state CDU-'Landesliste' ("party ticket"), should (could?) be safe for getting in the Bundestag.
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Reply Tue 1 Sep, 2009 10:45 am
Dammit, I misspelled Lengsfeld's name in the title of this thread :-(

Walter - oh, ok, she's on the list as well as running for the district, that's good; I'd vote for Stroebele but wouldn't begrudge her a parliamentary seat...

Wandel - quite right! Good digging ;-)
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2009 06:43 am
Results (rounded):
Hans-Christian Ströbele 47% - Halina Wawzyniak 17%
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2009 08:13 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Yep, Lengsfeld didnt stand a chance, of course, but good on her for trying.

Good on Strobele, meanwhile, for easily winning reelection as one of the Green party's leading lefties. While the Greens went from 8% to 10% of the vote nationally, he still remains the only directly elected Green MP. (Cem Ozdemir made a spirited run in Stuttgart to become the second one, but failed with 30% to the Christian Democrats' candidate with 34%.)

Berlin Kreuzberg/Friedrichshain remains, I am sure, one of the most leftwing constituencies in the country - very possibly the single most leftwing one. Here's the full results of the district's individual candidates:

46.8 % - Greens - Hans-Christian Ströbele
17.5 % - Leftists - Halina Wawzyniak
16.7 % - Social-Democrats - Björn Böhning
11.6 % - Christian-Democrats - Vera Lengsfeld
4.1 % - Liberals - Markus Löning
1.1 % - Neo-Nazis - Christian Steup
1.0% - Independent (campaigning for a guaranteed basic income)- Thomas Feldhaus
0.6% - Mountain Party (environmentalist / alternative) - Hauke Stiewe
0.4 % - Communists - Rolf Meier

And here's the district's results for the party lists ("Zweitstimmen"):

27.4% - Greens
25.0% - Leftists
20.2% - Social-Democrats
11.9% - Christian-Democrats
6.1% - Liberals
6.0% - Pirate Party
1.1% - Animal Rights
0.9% - Neo-Nazis
0.5% - The Violets (for spritual politics)
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