Germany: Fake candidate polls well

Franka Burns/AP
Comedian Hape Kerkeling as candidate Horst Schlämmer.

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

FRANKFURT, GERMANY – Life these days isn’t easy for Angela Merkel and her social democratic challenger in the Sept. 27 elections for chancellorship, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

As the parliamentary elections near, polls reveal people feel this is one of the most boring election campaigns in memory. The Germans just don’t care about their politicians.

Except, perhaps, for one. His name is Horst Schlämmer and he’s hugely popular these days. Like Mr. Steinmeier and Ms. Merkel, he wants the chancellor’s job – but with his own party, which stands for “Left, Liberal, Conservative, and a bit ecological,” and a platform that includes free plastic surgery for all, voting age at 12, and a monthly wage of 2,500 euros from cradle to grave.

According to a recent poll by Stern Magazine, 18 percent of those surveyed could see themselves voting for Mr. Schlämmer. If only they could. But Schlämmer cannot be elected. He is a fictitious candidate played by one of Germany’s best-known comedians, Hape Kerkeling, in a new film that mocks this year’s campaign.

In the film, Schlämmer, the unhappy deputy editor of a daily paper in a depressed town, decides to run for chancellor. Perhaps more than his political platform, everything about him – his dialect, his ugly moustache, and his habit of burping in public – makes him unconventional. His campaign slogan: “Yes, weekend!”

Since its release in the heat of the campaign earlier this month, “I’m a candidate,” has created a media buzz that’s stirring up an election discourse observers say is devoid of substance.

“Horst Schlämmer is the right man with the right message at the right time,” says Bernd Gäbler, a media specialist for the magazine Stern. “It’s a liberating laughter at a time when people feel politicians don’t answer major questions, he’s a parody of a campaign that leaves behind a huge vacuum.”

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