BERLIN Chancellor Angela Merkel's chest took center stage in Germany's federal election campaign on Monday after a party colleague caused outrage by attempting to win over voters with a photo of her cleavage.
Vera Lengsfeld, a member of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), came under fire after she unveiled a campaign poster showing herself and the chancellor in low-cut dresses with the slogan "We have more to offer" over Merkel's breasts.
Scores of voters pilloried the 57-year-old Lengsfeld on her election blog for the poster, which the CDU declined to defend.
"This wasn't agreed with us," a party spokesman said of the placard, which features a famous shot of Merkel sporting a plunging neckline at an Oslo opera house that created a media sensation in Germany when it first appeared last year.
Lengsfeld, a former East German civil rights activist, said she had bought the rights to the image but had not consulted the 55-year-old chancellor before unveiling the poster on Sunday.
"I can never get this sort of attention with flyers," said Lengsfeld, who is standing for election in the September 27 federal vote in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain, a traditional bastion of the left.
"The CDU is in a special situation in Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain," said Lengsfeld, who said the 750 posters had massively increased traffic onto her website.
Many contributors to Lengsfeld's election blog accused her of resorting to sexism and lowering the tone of the election.
"This woman must never be allowed to enter parliament. This is completely undignified and indecent," wrote one under the name of Hans Bartels.
However, some defended her.
"What a disgrace, I thought Berliners were tolerant," said another named Huelya. "My parents weren't even born here and they understood the double meaning of the slogan."
(Reporting by Dave Graham and Andreas Moeser)