SPD's Attack Campaign Spoiled by Rain

SPD chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück: Rain has destroyed his party's attack posters against incumbent Merkel.

SPD chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück: Rain has destroyed his party's attack posters against incumbent Merkel.

By Friederike Heine

Attempts by Germany's main opposition party, the center-left Social Democrats, to close the gap with their competitors were once again hampered on Thursday when 8,000 supposedly eco-friendly campaign posters turned to pulp in the rain.

The season's first campaign posters, which SPD candidate Peer Steinbrück had proudly presented at a press conference just 48 hours earlier, became water-logged at the first sign of rainfall and promptly fell off walls across the country.

Ironically, the posters had been touted as being eco-friendly, weather-resistant and free from damaging formaldehydes, part of a new recycling initiative by SPD headquarters. None of the campaign workers could have guessed, however, how quickly the environmentally friendly process of biodegradation would begin.

Several thousand posters in states including Hesse and Saarland reportedly disintegrated during their first exposure to rain. The debris must now be retrieved, said an internal party email seen by the website of the Düsseldorf daily Rheinische Post.

Attack Politics

Gaffe-prone SPD candidate Steinbrück himself is conspicuously absent from the posters. His party instead chose to launch an attack against the incumbent government, with a particular focus on Chancellor Angela Merkel's failure to comment on the Prism data spying scandal.

One of the affected posters shows Merkel rifling through a red handbag, accompanied by the slogan, "Privacy: Uncharted Territory for Merkel?" It's a reference to a much-maligned recent statement by the chancellor in response to the NSA scandal in which she referred to the Internet as "uncharted territory."

Another features Merkel, slumped over her seat in parliament, seemingly asleep, next to her vice chancellor, Philip Rösler, who is resting his head on his hands, looking bored and somewhat defeated. "The best government since reunification?" its slogan reads.

But without the posters, it looks like it's back to square one for the SPD attacks.

'Terribly Embarrassing'

"It's all terribly embarrassing," a campaign worker admitted to the mass-circulation Bild. "The local constituencies are in a state of rage -- they were made to believe by campaign headquarters that the posters were some kind of eco-friendly novelty. Now all the posters have to be retrieved and exchanged for the traditional ones."

Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats were quick to jump on the SPD-bashing bandwagon, with Jens Spahn, the party's health issues expert in parliament, telling the Rheinische Post, "One almost feels sorry for them. First they chose the wrong candidate, then the wrong campaign topics, and to top it all off, they go for the faulty posters."

The SPD has so far failed to make gains on Merkel's Christian Democrats and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union. The most recent polls show a comfortable lead of 42 percent, in comparison to the SPD's 26 percent. The ruling party's coalition partner, the business-friendly Free Democrats, is shown clearing the 5-percent hurdle required for seats in parliament in the most recent polls.

The way things look at the moment, Merkel's re-election is a foregone conclusion.

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