When Germany elects a new government on September 26 the average voter age may be over 50, but one and a half weeks before election day it is the children who ask the tough questions to the candidates who want to fill Angela Merkel’s shoes.
Armin Laschet, the outgoing Chancellor Conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Olaf Scholz, from the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), were both left in their seats in what has been hailed as their toughest grilling of the campaign. track-in the hands of two 11-year-olds.
For the interviews, which were shown as part of the Late Night Berlin comedy program by the private broadcaster ProSieben on Tuesday night, the two frontrunners encountered a roller coaster with high and low questions in the harmless surroundings of a bunting-adorned yurt.
Questions like “What would you be called if you were a dragon?” and “Do you sometimes build a cave when you want to be alone?” was interspersed with hard-hitting studies of the candidates’ positions on Russian foreign policy, civil protest and the handling of radical delegates in their own ranks.
Laschet, whose party’s fortunes have declined dramatically since he was filmed giggling in the background while Germany’s president held a solemn address to the victims of the devastating floods of summer, was asked by one of the children, Romeo, why he had laughed.
“Because someone made a stupid comment,” Laschet said. “It was dumb.”
“Can you become a chancellor if you do not know how to behave?”, Romeo’s co-interviewer Pauline further investigated. “No,” Laschet replied impatiently. “But I know how to behave.”
The children also put Laschet through the knot over his attitude towards Hans-Georg Maaßen, a former head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service who has transformed himself as a right-wing activist on social media and is now running for the CDU in Thuringia. While Laschet insisted he did not agree with Maaßen on several issues, he has refused to condemn him publicly, saying it is up to his constituency to pass a verdict.
“Are measurements a right edge?” Asked Romeo. “Do you know him?” Laschet shot back. “Yes,” Romeo replied.
“And why is he a right-winger?” Laschet returned the question. “I’m asking you that,” Romeo calmly insisted.
“If someone says he’s a Nazi, it’s unfair,” Laschet hoped after a break. “Nazis are not allowed to join the party,” he added, and he tried to take the children to the next question.
Laschet was also asked about his habit of smoking cigarettes, which Romeo said was “very unhealthy”. “Yes, that’s true,” Laschet replied, clenching his lips. “But so many things are unhealthy. I do not breathe. ”
Laschet’s performance is unlikely to improve his chances in the national vote on September 26, with the latest polls putting the CDU five to six percentage points behind Scholz’s Social Democrats.
When asked why people called him “Scholzomat”, Scholz said that this used to be his nickname because he always gave the same answer. “It may have been necessary, but not so smart.”
Romeo then asked him if Vladimir Putin was a murderer. “Putin is someone who is responsible for the fact that many people in Russia are threatened with their lives,” Scholz said diplomatically. “Are you talking Scholzomat again?” asked Romeo.
Romeo and Pauline’s interview with the green candidate Annalena Baerbock will be shown next week.
Right-wing media have criticized the show – whose host, Klaas Heufer-Umlauf, has previously supported the SPD – for using children to ask adult questions. The show’s producers admitted that the two interviewers wore earphones during the interview.
“To conduct an exciting interview, Pauline and Romeo must prepare in the same way that established journalists must,” said a spokesperson for ProSieben. “They both get editorial support in that task.”
Other child interviewers in this election campaign have managed to expose politicians without clues. IN an interview for the children’s news program oLogo!, young Alexander Tino Chrupalla, one of the chairmen of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland, asked what he meant when he said that his party wanted more “German cultural qualities” to be taught in German schools.
When Chrupalla said he wanted more schoolchildren to learn German folk songs and poems, Alexander said, “I think we already have to memorize many poems,” and he asked the AfD politician what his favorite poem was.
“My favorite poem is, uh, I have to think about it, I’m struggling to think of one right now,” Chrupalla said.
Alexander later told German media that he had not tried to set a trap with his question. “I really did not expect him not to be able to answer that,” he said.