• Germany edition
 
German Election 2013
Merkel's rival gives voters the middle finger
Photo: DPA/SZ

Merkel's rival gives voters the middle finger

Published: 13 Sep 2013 12:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Sep 2013 12:30 GMT+02:00

The man who wants to be Germany's next chancellor was pictured on the front of the weekly magazine supplement of the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily's Friday edition.

The unflattering black-and-white portrait of the Social Democrat (SPD) candidate Peer Steinbrück in suit and tie graces the cover of the magazine.

But the image of the 66-year-old flipping the bird, while sneering into the lens caused a storm ahead of the September 22nd vote, with attacks raining down from politicians and in the Twittersphere.

The provocative photograph has gone viral after a blogger published edited versions of the photo showing the SPD leader's outstretched digit in humorous situations.

The Tumblr blog, "What Peer's got his finger in" features versions of the photo in which Steinbrück's finger is being licked by an animated kitten, taking the place of God's finger in Michelangelo's Sistine chapel fresco, and spinning a basketball.

The blog has spawned a counterpart Twitter account, @peersfinger, which has already garnered almost 1,000 followers since the original photo was published.

CLICK HERE to see some of the funny Steinbrück photos

The @peersfinger Twitter account has been compared to the satirical @schlandkette account, mocking the necklace worn by Merkel in the TV debate with Steinbrück on September 1st.

And @schlandkette has commented on the @peersfinger feed, writing "I can hardly keep up with @peersfinger. Whatever, I'm slimmer."

Other tweets from users included "Coalition of my dreams-@peersfinger and @schlandkette", and "I would vote for Peer Steinbrück's middle finger".

Communications expert Stephan Lermer judged the picture, "a pubescent gesture, extremely vulgar - and this from a public person and chancellor candidate, a role model, who would represent 80 million Germans on the world stage."

Lermer predicted the picture would become iconic and define Steinbrück, the way Albert Einstein is best remembered for the photo with his tongue out.

"As Germans, we have to cringe," he said. "It will cost him votes. The gesture is unappetizing. It lacks class. It will especially turn off elder, conservative voters ... He thought he could score with irony, but the Germans are a serious people."

BUt SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel jumped to the defence of the candidate, saying on Twitter that Steinbrück "used an ironic photo interview to ironically show emotions".

Steinbrück defended himself late Thursday at a campaign event in Munich, where his party faces crucial Bavarian state elections Sunday.

In the photo essay with the Süddeutsche Zeitung's magazine, he said, "You are asked questions and have to respond with gestures, grimaces, emotions. You're acting. And I hope that the country will understand that the grimaces and gestures

relate to the question, and show a sense of humour."

Other parties sought to take advantage of the photo. "This gesture is unacceptable for a chancellor candidate," said economy minister Philipp Rösler of the Free Democrats, Merkel's junior coalition allies. "Something like that is just not on."

On Twitter under the tag #stinkefinger (middle-finger) one writer said: "Steinbrück's middle-finger seemed to say: 'Goodbye then, you election w*******.' At least he's getting a totally awesome exit."

Another judged the gesture as "diggin' for street credibility" while a third wrote: "Unbelievable! It's not a fake! I can't imagine a chancellor like that."

The image of the gaffe-prone Social Democrat candidate was taken for a photo-essay format called "Don't Say Anything Now" in which subjects are asked to respond non-verbally to questions.

The gesture by the self-styled straight-talking politician came in response to a question over his campaign gaffes, including causing offence in Italy by calling former premier Silvio Berlusconi a "clown". The journalists' question was: "Pannen (mishap) Peer, Problem Peer, Peerlusconi - you don't have to worry about a shortage of nicknames, do you?"

His picture stands in stark contrast to Merkel, who is portrayed on the cover of Friday's Economist magazine on a pedestal overlooking European landmarks with the headline "One woman to rule them all".

The Süddeutsche newspaper said had Steinbrück made the offensive gesture in a public place, would have faced a fine of €600 to €4,000, but it said that, given his negative image during the campaign, Steinbrück's "frustration is understandable".

Newspaper Die Welt said Steinbrück's ironic gesture showed he was now at ease on the campaign trail but would likely be remembered as part of the "series of many blunders and scandals".

READ MORE: Steinbrück shrugs off cleaner blackmail attempt

AFP/The Local/tsb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
German of the Week
'Now I can grow cannabis at home'
Günter Weiglein. Photo: DPA

'Now I can grow cannabis at home'

Günter Weiglein is one of three men in Germany who is allowed to grow his own cannabis thanks to a court ruling last week. But he tells The Local he’s not celebrating just yet. READ  

Germany tops penis enlargement table
Do your wurst, doc. Photo: DPA

Germany tops penis enlargement table

Germany is the world’s leader in penis enlargements, with five times as many people in the country undergoing the procedure than anywhere else in the world. Globally, Germany carries out the fourth highest amount of cosmetic surgery operations. READ  

The Local List
The best words in Austrian German
Which one is the Austrian word for tomato? Photo: APA/dpa

The best words in Austrian German

If you’ve lived in Germany, or you learnt Hochdeutsch at school, you may be surprised by some of the language differences between Austria and parts of Germany. READ  

Turks in Germany vote for first time
Voters at Berlin's Olympic Stadium on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Turks in Germany vote for first time

Germany’s large Turkish community headed to polling stations on Thursday to vote for the first time in a Turkish election. The Local visits Berlin’s Olympic Stadium which has been turned into a giant voting booth. READ  

Ice Age lion gets its head back
The lion with the missing half of its head. Photo: Hilde Jensen, Universität Tübingen.

Ice Age lion gets its head back

A 40,000-year-old figurine of a lion has been reunited with its head, more than 80 years after it was first found in a cave in southern Germany, following an extraordinary discovery. READ  

German jobless rate rises in July
Photo: DPA

German jobless rate rises in July

Unemployment in Germany rose in July to 6.6 percent, the Federal Employment Agency said on Thursday, blaming the increase on "seasonal reasons". READ  

Your lottery numbers are 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13
The winning numbers in Wednesday night's lotto. Photo: DPA/Lotto

Your lottery numbers are 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13

Three lucky Germans will take home a six-figure prize after an extremely rare lottery draw. The lucky numbers on Wednesday night were 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 37. READ  

Germany denies 'land for gas' deal with Putin
Merkel with Poroshenko and Putin in June. Photo: DPA

Germany denies 'land for gas' deal with Putin

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been working on a secret peace plan for Ukraine, The Independent newspaper reported on Thursday. The report was later denied by the German government. READ  

Space ship brings special cargo for astronaut
A cargo compartment on the ATV. Photo: ESA

Space ship brings special cargo for astronaut

The last European space freighter blasted off to the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, carrying a special treat for the station’s German astronaut. The launch of the German-built supply ship marks the end of an era. READ  

World Cup victory makes Germans thirsty
Beer sales abroad and during the World Cup were behind the rise. Photo: DPA

World Cup victory makes Germans thirsty

Germany’s World Cup victory was also good news for the country’s brewers who saw a welcome reversal in the long-term trend of draining beer sales. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Five reasons to visit Oktoberfest (and five not to)
Photo: DPA
Society
Huge Bavarian crop circle puzzles crowds
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Have Your Say: Should Germany legalize cannabis?
Photo: DPA
Education
Germany's students fail to graduate in time
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Hamburg harbour lit up in blue
Business & Money
JobTalk: 'Application process is failing'
Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825
Culture
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,250
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd