Model Citizens: German Politicians Create Their Own Utopia

By Emma Bullimore

Miniature railways and model villages are rarely the venues for political campaigns, but a new exhibition in Hamburg is seeking to change that. German political parties have created diminutive visions of utopia with the hope that their efforts will bag them a few votes along the way.

It's the stuff satirists' dreams are made of -- a group of politicians looming over the little people to create their vision of a perfect world. But this is no joke. With Germany's election race about to enter its final phase, Hamburg's Miniature Wonderland model village asked politicians from the country's six biggest parties to create their own scale models of utopia.

Parties from across the political spectrum were each allocated one square meter (about 11 square feet) of space to create their vision of a perfect society in model railway scale. Six models created by the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), the Greens and the far-left Left Party will be shown in an admission-free exhibition from Sept. 9 through to the German election on Sept. 27.

"We wanted to do something to mark the upcoming election," Minature Wonderland's Sebastian Drechsler told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "We wanted to give people a direct insight into the major parties and their policies."

The diversity of the finished products took the organizers by surprise. "We expected each of the parties to produce similar exhibits, with well-kept streets and solar power. But actually it has been great fun, because the utopias are all completely different," he said.

Grünland and Bavaria in Berlin

The parties left their own personal stamp on their models, too. The Christian Social Union seek to fulfill their promise of "Bringing more Bavaria to Berlin" by transforming the famous Berlin street Unter den Linden into a giant Oktoberfest beer garden packed with businessmen sporting laptops and Lederhosen. Meanwhile, the Green Party live up to their name, creating a rural landscape powered by wind turbines and solar energy. In the Greens' utopian "Grünland" ("Greenland"), punks and police chat together in a bar.

The FDP presents utopia as a society with fewer rules -- a vision of freedom and tolerance where people are allowed to smoke wherever they please. Its utopia includes "More-Take-Home-Pay Boulevard," a reference to pledged tax cuts, as well as a hearse filled with street signs. In what might be a tip of the hat to the party's openly gay leader, Guido Westerwelle, it also features two men in a coach on their way to a same-sex wedding.

Elsewhere, the far-left Left Party, which has in recent years lured voters away from the SPD, turns the challenge on its head by presenting a dystopian landscape in which mini demonstrators rail against inequality and discrimination.

Taking a more abstract approach, the CDU gets its inspiration from the German flag, showing 3,000 black figures, 3,000 red figures and 3,000 yellow figures for its model of the perfect world. Then there is the SPD's rather more romantic vision of Germany, complete with red brickwork and social harmony, reflected by universities, schools, kindergartens and a garage staffed by a female mechanic.

Between 60,000 and 70,000 visitors are expected to take a look at the exhibits before the election takes place in just over a month. Whatever the result, it is safe to say that the winning party will have a huge task on its hands if it wants to turn its miniature vision of utopia into full-scale reality.

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