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Michael Müller and the headscarf
SPD: The Social Democrats in power since 2001, took 28.3 percent of the 2011 vote
Strange to think Michael Müller is still only a default mayor – selected by his party more than 18 months ago after former mayor Klaus Wowereit lost the stomach for it – so this his first election campaign as a leading candidate. In fact, it's so hard to believe, some people aren't even aware that he's the mayor. And though the out-of-focus-strolling-round-Berlin poster strategy is well-meaning, it reflects the fuzzy uncertainty of his media persona. Here he seems to have assumed the identity of a creepy random bloke making eye contact with a young Muslim woman in exactly the way that Germans don't. Note the looseness of the pink headscarf, denoting the moderate, integrated Muslim, not the conservative ones we don't like.
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AfD: Germany's upstart rightwing populist party with no representation so far
"My Moroccan dealer gets his whole life paid for by the state. Something is super-rotten in Germany and that's why I'm voting for the ALTERNATIVE."
In some airless office, choking with mean-spiritedness and loathing, the AfD tried to imagine what its voter base in Berlin might be like. Unfortunately, being constrained by their limited world view, their powers could reach no further than a conflation of confused stereotypes, and they come up with this dog's breakfast – a racist stoner who is jealous of his dealer's state benefits. The AfD has thus cemented its place as a party of contemptible bottom-feeders.
On an aside, a non-German agency designed the Berlin poster campaign, because all the German ones didn't feel like destroying their business – or suffered an unlikely attack of morality.
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CDU: Merkel's conservative party, took 23.4 percent of the vote in 2011
The CDU mayoral candidate is Frank Henkel, also our current interior minister – a role that in Germany means he's in charge of tooling up the police, which he mainly uses to bash uppity lefties. Rather than advertising his credentials for the larger role as a representative of the whole city, Henkel's campaign is based on expanding what he does now – this poster, hung provocatively at "crime hotspot" Kottbusser Tor, makes things simple: More police, more video technology. The liberals have made Berlin weak, and now it must become strong.
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Die Grünen: The Greens, took 17.6 percent of the vote in 2011
Having failed in 2011 after fielding a party-heavyweight candidate in Renate Künast, the Greens are highlighting the message over the messenger this time. "Your god? Your sex? Your thing!" (photo bottom right) – The party's play for the bourgeois boheme vote is more amusingly ambiguous in English, but even in German there are all kinds of – possibly intentional – interpretations. But do you get the same acclaim if your sex is your god? Still, the two question marks followed by a celebratory exclamation add a frisson of drama to the situation.
Greens: WHO DO YOU WORSHIP AND WHAT DO YOU FUCK?
Greens: HA! LIKE WE CARE!
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FDP: The center-right liberal party wiped out on federal level in 2013, only got 1.8 percent of the state vote in 2011
The FDP is a party on the ropes – they made the biggest losses in Berlin's 2011 election (possibly thanks to the short-lived Pirate fad that opened this decade) and ended up with less than two percent of the vote. With nothing to lose, they've thrown it all at their poster campaign, and turned their candidate into a computer-distorted virtual reality visionary – complete with the Guevara head-angle - standing in the midst of a vorticist orgasm splashing his right ear. This Berlin is dead, the FDP's alarming vision tells us, it's time for Next Berlin.
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Die PARTEI: Germany's satirical party started by German satirical mag Titanic, currently no representation in Berlin
Because only die PARTEI knows that this is a city of wishful thinkers.
With the September 18 elections fast approaching, it's campaigning time again, which means parties have to distill their manifestos onto a bit of A3 plastic on a lamppost, or get ad agencies to do it. Anyway, here are the best, the fair and the worst (or the well-meaning, the desperate, and the creepy-awkward) of this year's efforts across the political spectrum.