Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 17:20 UK

'German Borat' shakes up election

Horst Schlaemmer
Horst Schlaemmer shown ahead of the premiere of his film I'm a candidate

A fictional candidate "campaigning" for Germany's parliamentary elections next month would win 18% of the votes if he stood, an opinion poll suggests.

Horst Schlaemmer is not even a real person, let alone a real candidate.

Played by comedian Hape Kerkeling, the spoof would-be chancellor has spiced up a campaign criticised as dreary.

His campaign slogan "Yes weekend" is inspired by Barack Obama, and he has pledged to replace Germany's national emblem - the eagle - with a bunny.

Horst Schlaemmer has become so popular that his spoof "campaign launch" was broadcast live on two TV networks and reportedly attracted more than 100 journalists.

Free cosmetic surgery

In real life, Hape Kerkeling is a German comedian and TV presenter who has been one of the country's most popular impersonators for many years.

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The 44-year-old once arrived at a German presidential reception dressed up as Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

He is often compared to British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who has gained worldwide fame through his characters Ali G, Borat and Bruno.

Ahead of his new film, he further blurred the lines between fact and fiction by launching the Horst Schlaemmer Party.

With his old-fashioned glasses, ratty moustache, grey wig and funny accent, the spoof candidate cuts a distinctive figure ahead of Germany's legislative elections on 27 September.

Describing his fake party as "conservative, liberal, left-wing and a bit ecological", Mr Schlaemmer's manifesto includes proposals like securing a 2,500 euro (£2,160) monthly salary for all Germans, public funding for sunbeds and more cash for cosmetic surgery.

Kerkeling's new movie, Isch Kandidiere (I'm a candidate), was released in cinemas this week and is expected to be a major late-summer hit.

Schlaemmer is an alternative to your usual grey-suited politician in Germany
Gero Neugebauer
Free University in Berlin

The film tells the story of Horst Schlaemmer, the unhappy deputy editor of a local paper in a grey city, who decides to run for chancellor.

After running an eclectic campaign, he finally gathers a small 0.4% of the votes.

But in a real-life poll conducted last week for the German newspaper Stern, no fewer than 18% of those interviewed said they would vote for Horst Schlaemmer if he were to stand in next month's parliamentary elections.

By injecting a dose of humour into the German political race, Mr Schlaemmer has boosted interest in an otherwise grey campaign, analysts say.

"Schlaemmer is an alternative to your usual grey-suited politician in Germany," Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at the Free University in Berlin, told AFP news agency.

"The boring campaign makes Schlaemmer more interesting."

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