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Politics

German Rosenmontag parades add politics to the party

The Carnival season is coming to a close, with "Rosenmontag" (Rose Monday) a highlight of Germany's festivities. It's the day for major parades with a decidedly satirical bent, and 2013 offered plenty of domestic fodder.

Roughly half a million Germans took to the streets - mostly in Düsseldorf, Mainz and Cologne - on Monday for perhaps the most politically charged day of the Carnival season.

International topics were up for discussion in the Rose Monday parades, even if German topics dominated the displays. One Cologne float called for the release of members of the Russian punk band "Pussy Riot," another joked about French actor Gerard Depardieu seeking less heavily taxed Russian shores, and one showed the presidents of Brazil and FIFA - Dilma Rousseff and Sepp Blatter - bulldozing favelas ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

A Carnival float in Colonge, on 11.02.2013, showing Sepp Blatter and Dilma Rousseff at the wheel of a bulldozer, crushing a settlement. (Photo: Oliver Berg/dpa)

Partner country Brazil was satirized just the same

Cologne also extended a hand to fellow Carnival capital Rio de Janeiro, this year's partner city for the festivities, with samba music, dancers and drummers adding an international flavor to the more localized satire.

Nevertheless, domestic politcs dominated the agenda in a year when voters will choose a new federal German government.

Designers in Düsseldorf worked particularly fast, even managing to squeeze in a lampoon of former Education Minister Annette Schavan, who only resigned on Saturday. The minister was pictured reeling with a cannonball to the back, freshly fired from the University of Düsseldorf, which stripped Schavan of her PhD after finding that she had plagiarized parts of her thesis.

Schavan was a trusted ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who escaped most personal criticisms this year.

A Carnival float in Düsseldorf shows a depiction of Angela Merkel's face, with a Greek caricature using a giant pencil to paint on a Hitler moustache, on February 11, 2013. (Photo: Martin Gerten/dpa)

Merkel's critics were criticized, the chancellor less so

Still, Merkel was pictured in Cologne in an exhibition satirizing the eurozone's sovereign debt woes. The German chancellor was portrayed as a suckling mother pig, with Spain, Greece, Portugal and others squabbling over access to her teats. Another showed a Greek representative painting a moustache similar to that of Adolf Hitler on the face of a dour-looking Merkel, who wore an armband saying "you must save money."

No respite for the opposition

The Social Democrat candidate to topple Merkel, former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück, was under fire in Mainz and Düsseldorf. To the south, he was pictured with money pouring out of his pockets - a reference to reports about his earnings from public speaking appointments.

In Düsseldorf, meanwhile, the struggling candidate was pictured with dogs biting at his heels - including high-ranking members of his own party - and a ball and chain labeled "chancellor's salary" around his ankle, a reference to his much-criticized call for Germany's top politician to receive a pay rise. Düsseldorf takes particular pride in having "no-holds-barred" parades on Rose Monday.

The Free Democrats' newly crowned co-leader for September's election, Rainer Brüderle, was not spared in Düsseldorf after his alleged sexist comments to a journalist. Brüderle was portrayed as a slavering dog, eagerly sniffing the posterior of a female dog with the label "Stern" and a blond wig apparently designed to resemble the magazine's journalist Laura Himmelreich.

Another topic that caught the attention of satirists was the apparently eternal building site that's set to become Berlin's new international airport. Originally slated for October 2011, the ribbon cutting is now to take place at an undisclosed point in 2014.

The two figures most highly affected by the delay in recent months, Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and Brandenburg's regional leader Matthias Platzeck, were pictured at a fictitious opening ceremony - evidently set far in the future. The two men had flowing knee-length white beards and hair, making them look like they belonged in a Lord of the Rings film.

Carnival, also called the "fifth season" in Germany, runs until Ash Wednesday. It's a traditional period of celebration ahead of the Christian period of abstinence known as Lent, with a political angle stemming from public criticism of 19th-century French rule in the parts of western Germany where the tradition is most beloved.

msh/mkg (AFP, dpa)