Bizarre Campaign Aims at Young Voters | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 12.06.2002
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Bizarre Campaign Aims at Young Voters

It's election time again and the German Parliament is out to mobilise young voters with an elaborate ad campaign that looks like a.... phone-sex advertisement?

The poster reads, 10,000 watts pulsating through the body and still nothing to confess

The poster reads, "10,000 watts pulsating through the body and still nothing to confess"

The campaign is called "Entscheidung für Freiheit," or Making a Choice for Freedom. The idea is that young people should realise the advantages of a democratic society and make their voices heard by voting. That's the message that the different political parties represented in parliament are trying to get across. They want to avoid the extremist parties getting a disproportionate share of the votes because of voter apathy.

But the campaign didn't get off to a smooth start as some members of parliament were shocked with the artistic concept. It was developed by a group of students and the politicians claim they didn't have a say.

The campaign has three poster themes that are to be pasted on billboards all over Germany. The first of the three pictures is where the controversy comes to a point.

Bundestag Plakat Und niemand hört mit

Some say at first glance it looks like a phone-sex ad

It's a picture of a smiling young woman sitting on the floor and talking on the phone. Across the picture are the words, "Flirting, criticising, gossiping and no one is listening in on me." It's only after the reader notices the smaller text underneath that the point becomes clear about people's right to privacy in Germany's democratic society. Critics say, at first glance the poster looks like a telephone sex-ad and seems to have nothing to do with voting.

The second of the three posters is also confusing at first but it doesn't have any sexual overtones. It's a headshot of a young man making a face as if he's screaming. It's not obviously clear if he's at a party having fun or being tortured. The caption reads,"10,000 watts pulsating through the body and still nothing to confess". The finer print bellow explains how no one can be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment.

The third is a close up of a young man throwing a ball right at the camera and the caption is, "shooting without blood". The explaination is due to strickt regulations, not everyone can carry weapons.

What politicians are saying

CDU party delegate, Heiner Geissler, thinks the whole campaign is counter-productive.

Rolf Kutzmutz, deputy leader of the parliamentary faction of the Post Communist party (PDS), said if they had seen the pictures before they were published, then his party never would have agreed to them. He also believes that "anyone, even those who occasionally read the newspapers, will know they are being taken for a ride". The Free Democrats (FDP) echo his criticism.

Parliamentary President Wolfgang Thierse quickly brushed the criticism aside and claimed the critics had just misunderstood the campaign.

Getting young people to vote is difficult

Generally, it's never been easy to rally young voters to take political action. According to statistics provided by the Organisation of the Promotion of Political Understanding, young voters (ages 18 to 24) normally don't vote because they feel they aren't well enough informed. For the upcoming election, 2.5 million people will be first-time voters, which is four percent of the voting population.

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