The Merkel-Raute (German for "Merkel rhombus"; in English media also called the Merkel diamond or "Triangle of Power") is a hand gesture made by resting one's hands in front of the stomach so that the fingertips meet, with the thumbs and index fingers forming a rough quadrangular shape. As the signature gesture of Angela Merkel, the current German Chancellor, it has been described as "probably one of the most recognisable hand gestures in the world".
Asked about how the Merkel-Raute was introduced as her trademark, Angela Merkel stated that "there was always the question, what to do with your arms, and that's how it came about." She chose the gesture without having been assisted by a counsellor because "it contains a certain symmetry."
Use by supporters and opponents
The stereotypical gesture was originally used in order to ridicule Angela Merkel and her government. Most notably, it is found with comedians impersonating her, combined with the colorful jackets she is usually seen wearing. In Jan Philipp Gloger's staging of The Flying Dutchman, which premiered during the 2013 Bayreuth Festival, the Merkel-Raute is used as a criticism of capitalism: During the performance, the gesture is shown as the distinctive mark of a nameless, synchronized elite of bankers and managers.
When used by her own party (the conservative Christian Democratic Union), the gesture is intended as a political symbol for Merkel's (presumed) unagitated leadership. On 2 September 2013, near the climax of the campaign for the 2013 federal election, the CDU unveiled a giant banner greeting travellers at Berlin Central Station, which was displayed on two sides of a hotel building under construction, taking up a total space of nearly 2,400 square meters (26,000 sq ft). The photographic mosaic was made up of 2,150 images of the hands of CDU supporters and shows nothing but Merkel's hands forming the Raute, next to the slogan "Germany's future (is) in good hands" (German: Deutschlands Zukunft in guten Händen). According to Hermann Gröhe, the manager of the CDU election campaign, the billboard would perfectly "embody our election message".
Politicians of the opposition criticised the giant campaigning billboard as an instance of a "monstrous cult of personality", calling it "Cuban-style". Berlin-based newspaper Der Tagesspiegel used Merkel's nickname Mutti ("mommy") in conjunction with Kurt Tucholsky's poem Mutterns Hände ("Mother's Hands", which describes the hands of an old, dying woman) to imply that it was unfavorable for politicians to be characterized by just one hand gesture.
Since its installation, the giant CDU campaigning poster enjoys a high popularity on the Internet, especially with the users of social networking services. The releasing of digitally altered images has turned into an Internet meme, most notably featuring Merkel's hands superimposed on images of Mr. Burns (whose trademark is a similar gesture), Grumpy Cat, Spock and others.
The emoticon <> referencing the Merkel-Raute has also been adopted by the CDU in its Internet communications. For example, it organised a competition on its Facebook page in which people were encouraged to comment with "<>" in order to win a bag printed with the aforementioned campaign poster. It also used the emoticon at the end of its 2013 year-end video montage.
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