Little help from celebs for Germany’s undecided voters

September 25, 2009

Nobel prize-winning writer Guenter Grass is dressed in a
mustard-brown cord suit and reading his work to a reverent
audience in a hushed Berlin night club.

It feels more like a book launch than a political campaign
event just days before the German election. Yet as far as
celebrity endorsements for German political parties go, this
is as big as it gets.

The Social Democrats (SPD) have boasted Grass, author of “The Tin Drum”, among their most famous  and vocal supporters for 40 years. Party leaders have come and gone, but 81-year-old Grass is reassuringly familiar — and strangely ageless as he reads in an expressive, animated voice.

The mood is convivial. Hardly what is required to provide the much-needed shot in the arm for the SPD, who lag Chancellor Angel Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the polls.

Political endorsements by Germany’s stars of stage and screen have always been earnest and low-key, in sharp contrast to the glamour Hollywood celebrities or chart-topping musicians hope to inject in U.S. elections.

But this time around, in an election campaign lacking dynamism and momentum from all sides, even the endorsements sound particularly flat, as the testaments on campaign websites for the two leading candidates show.

“When I see him and hear him speak, I see a man who is very clear,” explains Katharina Saalfrank, a television presenter famous for reforming naughty children in the show “Super Nanny”, on a website supporting Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the SPD Chancellor candidate.

Frank is “very laid-back”, says a member of the Berlin band, TheBossHoss, who according to the campaign website stormed the charts in 2005.

Not to be left out, the Christian Democrats (CDU) have their own endorsement site for Merkel, which
features businesspeople, actors and curiously, several German boxers and kickboxers expressing their support.

German world boxing champion Regina Halmlich says she likes Merkel because she “keeps a cool head”.

Former German national footballer Olaf Thon says he wants her to remain in her job because “as a woman she is the strongest man in the country.”

Some 20 percent of the German electorate are still undecided on which way to cast their vote. Germany’s “promis”, or celebrities, seem unlikely to provide any help.

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