Tag Archives: elections

The eight stupidest election posters

23 May

by John Riceburg and Konrad Werner

Two more days until the European elections. Let’s be honest, though: no one really cares about the results. But another, more exciting contest has already been decided: the stupidest election posters! The parties put their least competent politicians on the European lists – and they also seem to use the slogans that got rejected for more important elections. John Riceburg and Konrad Werner survey the worst of the worst in our slideshow above.

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SPD: Wohnraum statt Stillstand (Housing instead of stagnation)

Let’s do a little thought experiment here. I’m going to give you three terms and you tell me what pops into your head: airport, stagnation, SPD. What did you think of? Inevitably the BER airport – which according to latest projections should open in 2123 just in time for the Starship Enterprise to land there. But no, the SPD isn’t referring to the one empty hole of an airport they’ve given us. They want to turn another airport – which is currently Berlin’s favourite park – into a construction site for luxury apartments. We’ve written about the lies being spread by the Senat regarding Tempelhof, but this poster seems almost honest by comparison. They’ve made claims about “affordable housing”, but that means 18 percent rather expensive housing and 82 percent extremely expensive housing. Now, they’re talking about just “housing” – and they do actually intend to build 5000 apartments, even though you and your friends would never be able to afford them.

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Pirates: Zwischen Mut und Angst liegt nur ein Herzschlag (There’s only a heartbeat between courage and fear!)

Man, I was just about to set up my Agency for Vapid Election Slogans. The idea was simple: a party gives me €50,000 or so, and I’ll provide them with a string of those meaningless buzzwords that German voters seem to love. I’ll even throw in a stock photo of a guy in a suit with a friendly but determined look. The trick is to cram everything into one slogan. For example: “It takes courage to be close to people and display leadership in order to strengthen democracy!” (That’s copyrighted, by the way!) But now the Pirates, Germany’s own online activist party, seem to have cornered the Vapid Election Slogan market. A European Union flag in a heart shape? Courage? Fear? Less than three years ago, the Pirates came up with the legendary poster: “Why am I even hanging here? You won’t vote anyway.” If any more proof was needed that they had run out of steam, this is it.

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AfD: Die Schweiz ist für Volksentscheide. Wir auch! (Switzerland is for referendums. We are too!)

How often do they have to tell us? The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is not a racist, extreme right party! AfD leader Bernd “I’m not a Nazi” Lücke assures us his party is just conservative and “Euro-skeptisch”. This poster tells us they are for referendums. Would that be a reference to the recent referendum in Switzerland in favor of deporting “criminal foreigners”? Who knows? But the Nazi party NPD has a similar poster lauding “The example of Switzerland: Stop mass immigration! Referendum now!” That’s not the only coincidence: An AfD poster says: “We aren’t the world’s unemployment office!” The NPD, in contrast, says: “We aren’t the unemployment office of the world!” Totally different! See if you can spot the differences between these AfD and NPD posters. Or try this quiz.

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Greens: I have a dream. I’m a refugee. I’m Europe.

We’ve reported how the Greens in Kreuzberg sent the police to evict the refugee protest camp – again and again. But for people who don’t follow the news, the Greens are presenting themselves as a pro-refugee party. As part of a series of English-language posters, this young woman presents herself as a “refugee” – a refugee with tussled hair, perfect makeup and stylish piercings. Now I think I understand the problem: The refugees at O-Platz who the Greens had violently evicted were mostly men from Africa. But the Greens totally support refugees if they are young, white models. Come to think of it, we might even convince the CDU and the AfD to support the right to asylum if we just make sure the refugees are gorgeous enough. We asked the Greens several times if the woman on the poster is, in fact, a refugee. We’re still waiting for a response.

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DKP: Hände weg von der Ukraine! (“Hands off the Ukraine!”)

It’s the Great Game all over again: all the major powers are currently intervening in the Ukraine in their own interest. The most annoying part is that everyone, from Obama to Putin to Steinmeier, claims to be acting in the interest of democracy, human rights and the constitution. So it’s nice the German Communist Party has a simple slogan: “Hands off the Ukraine!” But wait. Why are there only US and EU hands? Doesn’t Russia have any “hand” in the conflict? Now the DKP is a fairly old party, but surely the comrades have noticed that the Soviet Union dissolved a while ago, right? Or do they still think Comrade General Secretary Putin is fighting for peace and democracy like back in the good old days? And why have the Eastern provinces of the Ukraine already been cut off the map, apparently reabsorbed into Soviet Russia? Even weirder: Why is the Crimean Peninsula still part of the Ukraine?

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/blogs/the-blog/john-riceburg-and-ben-knight-the-eight-stupidest-election-post/

(The three by Konrad Werner are available at the Exberliner website.)

Fotos: John Riceburg

Should expats get the vote?

5 Sep

passport-@Maia-Schoenfelder

Berliners will be voting in Germany’s federal elections on September 22. But roughly 440,000 – more than 10 percent of the city’s population – can’t go to the polls.

Not only Exberliner staffers are unhappy about this situation: campaigns are calling to extend voting rights to all Berliners regardless of their nationality.

The German elections are less than a month away, and Exberliner’s office in Mitte is… well, “buzzing” is not quite the right word. “Bored” might be closer. In fact, it would be easy to forget the voting entirely if we didn’t have our September politics special to worry about.

One reason is that the election itself is a sleeper. Who’s going to get excited about the 100 to 1 odds that Merkel will be re-elected chancellor? But another reason is that a big chunk of our team can’t participate. Many of us – from the editor to the author of this article – are among the roughly 440,000 Berliners who lack voting rights because they have no German passport.

EU citizens living in Berlin can participate in the elections for the district parliaments (Bezirksverordnetenversammlungen or BVV) and the EU parliament as well as referendums at a district level. But they can’t vote for the mayor, the senate or the parliament of Berlin – and certainly not for the Bundestag. Meanwhile, Berliners with a passport from outside the EU can’t vote on anything.

In the office

Erica, our art director, votes in national elections in her native Finland and in local elections in Berlin. She doesn’t want to vote for Germany’s Bundestag: “I don’t know how to vote tactically to get a particular coalition,” she says. “I would need a one-week course to understand that.” On the other hand, she doesn’t understand why her communal voting rights apply to her district but not to the city as a whole: “I’m as much a citizen of Berlin as of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.” She’d also like to participate in the upcoming referendum on the re-communalisation of the energy grid.

Walter, our web editor, cast his vote for the last US presidential election from Berlin – it was counted in San Francisco, his last place of residence in the States. “It was clear that Obama would win, the same way that Merkel will win now”, he remembers, but he voted for Obama anyway. “I needed to participate in democracy since it’s the only thing I can do for the US.” The 30-year-old columnist for the gay magazine Siegessäule likes protests as well, but living right at Kottbusser Tor, the almost daily demonstrations tend to blend together. He cares about local issues like rents, drug policy and public transport – “and we should just abandon that new airport” – but he’s not too interested in Germany’s political parties: “I’m not investing much time in that if I can’t vote.”

Laura (name changed), a staffer, might be the last person you’d expect to vote here. She moved to Berlin less than two years ago from the US. Her German is halting, but her passport nonetheless proclaims Deutsch. Her grandfather fled from Hamburg in 1938 and, after spending the war in Shanghai, eventually settled in California. In 2008, he and all his living descendants acquired German citizenship. Now Laura is one of the small number of Berliners who hold two passports. This is her first German election, and she is leaning towards Die Linke or the Greens, although during our conversation she confuses the social-democratic SPD with the hyperliberal FDP. She’s talking to her local friends to get a feeling for her options. “People here really think about who they are going to vote for”, she reflects, “whereas in the US it’s automatically clear which of the two parties you’ll support.”

On the bike

“As a Berlin Turk from the Black Sea coast, I don’t want it to be like this” says Aydin Akin. The 70-year-old has lived in the city for 45 years, working as a tax consultant for Berlin workers, primarily from Turkey and Arab countries. But you probably know him for something else: Every day, Aydin rides his bike through eight of Berlin’s districts with a whistle and protest signs demanding the right to vote. He also calls for tax equality, since non-EU citizens pay higher taxes even though they get fewer services. The messages on his signs might be too small to read, but they’re always on the same topic.

Aydin has been doing this every single day since September 2005 (two federal elections ago), “including on Sundays and holidays”. How far has he been so far? “At the end of June, the stand was 100,200 kilometres,” he says. In the same time, he’s written exactly 32,131 letters and e-mails to countless politicians and political groups. “If the demands aren’t met, I’ll keep biking and protesting to the cemetery,” he swears. These protest forms might seem quixotic, but Aydin has also helped organize larger bicycle demonstrations as well as symbolic votes for foreigners.

In their own Heimat

Kathleen O’Brien was born and raised in Germany; her parents were Irish and English citizens who got their child an Irish passport because the Irish consulate had the simplest procedure. She could try to get a double passport now, 26 years later, but that would mean lots of forms and even more fees. “Not particularly enticing.” So she can’t vote in Germany, except at the communal level, but she can’t vote in Ireland either, where residency is required as well as citizenship. “In view of Ireland’s high number of emigrants, this makes sense to me,” she says, and she doesn’t follow the national politics of a country where she’s never lived. “My parents have been living in Germany for 30 years and they’ve never been able to elect a representative at a national level,” she says. The worker in cultural management would like a right to vote herself: “No taxation without representation!”

“If I give up my passport, I lose the last piece of my roots,” explains Monika Hubar. She moved to Germany from Poland at the age of four, just before the Iron Curtain fell, and the 30-year-old has been living in Germany ever since. She has kept her Polish passport: “If I could get a German one as well, I would do that.” But the introduction of double passports was blocked more than a decade ago by conservative politicians. Now the young woman has one passport but two countries: “In Germany I’m called a Pole, but in Poland I am dismissed as a German,” she explains. “I have an accent in both languages.” She went to the Polish embassy in Berlin to vote once – “to get rid of the Kaczyński twins” – and she also voted in a district-level referendum in 2009 in Tempelhof-Schöneberg about keeping the Tempelhof Airport open, but that was after the city-wide referendum on the same topic had already been defeated, so the whole thing was later declared invalid. “I would vote if I could, but since I can’t, the elections don’t really interest me,” she concludes.

In the parliaments

The conservative party CDU is in favour of the current system: if you want to be a German citizen, you must give up all loyalties to other countries. If you can’t or don’t want to do that for whatever reason, then: no double passports, no voting rights, and higher taxes. But most parties in the parliament are in favour of reform. The SPD and Die Linke call for expanded voting rights for foreigners. The Greens have put up election posters in Neukölln featuring a woman with two passports and the slogan “Double is Better.” The Pirates want “voting rights for all Berliners, regardless of nationality”. But so far, reform has got caught up in the cogs of the political machine: the coalition contract of Berlin’s “red-black” government excludes any expanded voting rights, so the SPD is currently voting against its own position and in line with the CDU.

In the meantime, Berliners without German citizenship are getting active. A campaign called “Wahlrecht für alle” (“voting rights for all”) organised a “symbolic election” in the run-up to the local elections in September of 2011. For years there have been “symbolic elections” for people under 18, and now Berliners without a German passport had the chance to show their preferences – and also their desire to participate in democracy. On September 4, two weeks before the real election, 2371 non-voters went to 82 polling stations. The results were about what you’d expect: Non-citizens were more likely to vote for the SPD and the Greens, while only 8 percent cast a vote for the CDU. They were less likely than average to vote for Die Linke, the Pirates or – naturally – the neo-Nazi party NPD. And non-citizens, just like citizens, didn’t vote for the FDP at all.

The “Wahlrecht für alle” campaign is now organising a protest action in the government quarter on September 14. A long line of people are going to wait in front of a giant ballot box to protest against democratic deficits in the current system. European elections are coming up again in May of next year: Germany has 96 representatives in the European parliament, but this number is calculated according to the number of residents, not of citizens. Almost 4.5 million people are represented by people they can’t vote for.

“Germany should belong to the population and not to ‘the Germans!'” says Janika Oberg from the association Jede Stimme (“every vote”) that is supporting the campaign. “Lots of Berliners have lived here for decades, work here, are active and pay taxes,” she explains. Many of them can’t get a passport for administrative reasons but have a right to be involved in decisions that affect their lives. This isn’t a utopian demand either: 16 countries in Europe and as many as 45 worldwide offer some voting rights to foreign citizens.

Until there is a solution, which will have to be at a federal level in Germany, there are lots of possibilities for political activity – German passport or not! Non-citizens can become a member of a party and campaign for elections. We can protest and demonstrate just as well as passport holders. We can’t sign petitions for referendums, but we can still collect signatures from citizens. So Germany’s federal elections are a good time to get active about the topics relevant to you – whether it’s rents, education, the environment or Germany’s role in the euro crisis – if for no other reason than to annoy the CDU.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/features/lifestyle/expats-at-the-polls-who-can-vote/

Photo: Maia Schoenfelder

“Hope is irrational”

10 Oct

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Feeling apathetic about the vote? Four years ago, Berliners were high on Obama-mania. With the US presidential elections on November 6, support amongst expats is lukewarm at best. John Riceburg samples the mood.

Voting in Berlin

In September 2008, 200,000 Berliners thronged to the Tiergarten to see him, some waiting the whole day in the sun. Excitement filled the air. It felt like one of the old Love Parades – except instead of the boom-boom-boom of techno beats, there were chants of O-BA-MA.

Back then, Obama-mania swept through Berlin as if it was an American college town. Polls showed that Germans favoured Obama over McCain by about 90 percent. The American expats, if anything, were even more enthralled. This year, with high unemployment, ongoing wars and crushing deficits in the US, ‘HOPE’ (Shepard Fairey poster-style) has dissolved into resignation. Most Berliners still lean to the left, with few if any declaring support for Mitt Romney. But the party atmosphere of 2008 is long gone.

Disillusion in Berlin

As in the US, where Democratic enthusiasm is down from over 60 percent to just under 40 percent, disillusionment is rampant among American Berliners. Ryan Plocher (27) studies politics at the Free University. During the last election, he says, “I carved a pumpkin with Obama’s face and ‘YES WE CAN’ in my tiny attic apartment.” He had very concrete expectations of the country’s first black president: “I thought Guantanamo would be closed, universal healthcare would be introduced and the War on Terror ended. Hope is irrational.” Over the following years, he realised that Democrats remained “remarkably capable of total betrayal of their values”.

“We thought that after eight years of Bush, everything would be possible,” concurs Ben Cooper (24), a North Carolinian studying in Berlin. But soon enough, he was “utterly disappointed”. He admits there were some high points to the Obama presidency, his favourite being the 2009 ‘beer summit’: When a black professor was arrested in front of his own house under suspicion of being a thief, the president invited him and the racist police officer to the White House to share a beer. Of course racism still exists, but at least it can get washed down with alcohol.

Micah Brashear (26), is a jazz musician and a native Brooklynite who could top most Berliners in cynicism. But even he says he “felt a bit warm and fuzzy the night Obama got elected.” Then the seemingly anti-war candidate supported militarism and turned out to be, in Brashear’s words, a “chauvinistic sock puppet”.

Between a rock and a hard place?

Most young expats concede that at least Obama is not Romney, a Mormon multi-millionaire who got rich through mergers and acquisitions. His vision for getting the US out of its crisis involves cutting taxes for the extremely wealthy and restricting the right to abortion – and if that doesn’t work, perhaps also attacking Iran.

Cooper’s been following the campaign circus with amused interest, comparing it to the thriller 127 Hours: “It takes a while, but he finally just has to grit his teeth and cut his arm off. Whether or not it was worth it, at least it made for a summer blockbuster.” Cooper himself will grit his teeth and vote for Obama. At the end of the day: “I do appreciate any president who pisses old white people off that much.”

No matter what, Brashear isn’t voting for Obama this time. “If I get the energy to do the paperwork, I would vote for Roseanne.” The ageing comedian is running on the ticket of the Peace and Freedom Party, and is the closest thing to a working-class candidate on offer.

Plocher won’t renew his vows either. From Georgia, a state that reliably votes Republican, he doesn’t see much point in casting a ballot. “I’m not so enthused that I’d waste my time by voting – even symbolically.”

“Most people I know will be voting for Obama as the lesser evil or because they always vote Democrat,” says Constanze Frank, a 60-something Berliner who spent 30 years in the States as a teacher and social worker. She campaigned for Obama in 2008 but eventually lost all hope of seeing her adopted country move towards that “platform of promises Obama was selected on, most of which he abandoned as soon as he was elected.” This played a huge role in her decision to move back to her Heimat.

“There is a lot of denial with the Democrats I am talking to, but they cannot face someone like Romney. And who can blame them?” Frank says. But as far as she’s concerned, “I would not vote for either one.”

We are the .03 percent

Alan Benson (53), an active member of Democrats Abroad, puts expat apathy down to unrealistically high expectations in 2008. He remains convinced that Obama could implement more of his agenda in a second term, “by making use of executive orders when he doesn’t need to take re-election into consideration.” So he’s still signing people up to vote. At the German-American John F. Kennedy School in Zehlendorf, for example, he recently registered 18 voters in one parent evening.

For Benson, getting expats to the polls is more than a “basic civic duty”. It’s also a tactical question. “The longer Americans are overseas, the more they tend to acquire a more progres- sive way of viewing their home country.” And of course, supporters of the non-progressive party – the one that claims America was created by God himself – are less likely to move abroad. Benson estimates “at least nine in ten” of the Amis who vote here are for Obama.

In 2011, there were 101,643 Americans living in Germany, not counting military personnel and all those folks who overstayed their tourist visas. This 0.03 percent of eligible voters is not likely to sway the election – but as Florida showed in 2000, individual ballots can make a big difference.

Exberliner is not going to give its prized endorsement to anyone. All we would vote for is a bit less smugness from Germans when it comes to watching the circus across the pond. Americans in Berlin already know the political system in the US is more or less insane, but that’s probably why they came here. They don’t need to be reminded.

Source: http://www.exberliner.com/articles/hope-is-irrational/

Illustration: Mirjami Qin