The diamond-shaped hands, a registered trademark of the German Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, have become a weapon of an electoral campaign, a marketing strategy and even dolls that serve as an incense holder in the final stretch of government of conservative politics.
Merkel announced in 2018 that after 16 years in government, she would not run in this year’s parliamentary election, scheduled for September 26, and would retire from party politics.
The exit from the scene of the leader, who maintains a high approval rating — 60%, in the most recent data — opened a dispute for the role of her closest heir. Armin Laschet, candidate of the Union (CDU-CSU) —Merkel’s Conservative Party— and Olaf Scholz, current Finance Minister and PSD candidate, Social Democrat, compete for the title.
The “Merkel diamond”, also called a diamond by the English media, does not have the sexual connotation in Germany that advises against its use by politicians in Brazil or the US, for example, countries where the gesture can be interpreted as an allusion to the vagina.
The sign was once a symbol of the campaign for the re-election of the Prime Minister in 2013; this year, however, he became famous at the hands of Scholz, in the cover photo of the magazine of the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
“Don’t say anything, Scholz” is the title of the publication, and in fact this seems to be unnecessary. For now, he is the one who best represents the prime minister’s trustworthy style to voters, which is due as much to her success in her image strategy as to the stumbling blocks of her conservative rival.
Laschet balked at crucial times, such as the July floods, which killed 177 people and devastated cities — notably in the state he commands, North Rhine-Westphalia. In contrast, the financial aid package organized by the national government, with Scholz at the head, stood out.
After the tragedy, voting intentions in the Union plummeted, while those in the SPD continued to rise.
In about a month, the Social Democrats have overtaken their rivals and are now leading the race for the post of the biggest party in the Bundestag (the German Parliament), with 25% of the votes, on average in the polls, against 20% of the Union — which, in some surveys, it already appears below that mark—and 17% of Greens.
Scholz is seen as more competent than Laschet (55% versus 14%), more confident (43% to 15%), more capable of leading (53% to 15%) and more likeable (42% to 13%). Although German voters do not directly choose their prime minister, the Social Democrat also appears at the front in polls that ask this hypothetical question.
After a TV debate earlier this month, the current finance minister was singled out as the preferred prime minister by 43% of Germans, more than double Laschet (16%) and more than triple the Green candidate , Annalena Baerbock (12%).
These numbers bolster his image, but to become head of the German government, Scholz will first need his party to get the most seats in parliament, which virtually guarantees his name will be proposed as prime minister.
After that, he will have to receive the votes of half plus one of the elected deputies – which, according to the polls so far, will require a coalition of at least three parties, since there are no two associations that, together, obtain this majority .
In a scenario of so many uncertainties, the fact that this is the first time in decades that an incumbent prime minister does not run for re-election further increases electoral unpredictability.
But on billboards in German cities, it is not just in political advertising that Merkel’s image is disputed. His farewell also served as a pretext for advertisements, in which his diamond hands are the highlight.
“Goodbye, Mom” (“Tschüss Mutti”, in the original) is the slogan stamped by the dairy manufacturer Berchtesgadener Land, over the image of the iconic gesture “holding” a glass of milk, in front of one of the first pastel-colored blazers. -German minister —in this case, a leafy green one.
In addition to the giant poster, measuring more than 300 square meters, in the center of the city, the image will also be displayed on an animated screen around the Mercedes square, near the Berlin Wall.
“We would like to say goodbye to the federal chancellor [como o cargo de primeiro-ministro é chamado na Alemanha] with its brand in the heart of the capital, bringing together good humor and flavour”, said a director of the dairy industry, Bernhard Pointner, to a website about German media.
In eastern Germany, thousands of small Merkels with their hands in front of their bellies also roll off the production lines of Seiffener Volkskunst, an incense holder manufacturer in Seiffen. The first 300 wooden figures, 14 centimeters high and three versions of costumes — pink, purple and turquoise — have all been sold, according to director Andreas Bilz.
The manufacturer claims that the dolls are a tribute to the prime minister’s farewell. He has promised to donate 10% of the proceeds to victims of the July floods.