Peer Steinbrück, the man hoping to unseat Angela Merkel as Chancellor in Germany’s election on Sept. 22, has been photographed striking a bold middle-finger gesture. The unusual black-and-white portrait graces the front of the Friday magazine of the German daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung – and, intriguingly, the Social Democrat Party candidate was happy to give them the go-ahead to publish it, reports the Financial Times.
Sueddeutsche’s election blog explains the image was taken for a photo-essay style of interview called “Don’t Say Anything Now,” in which subjects are asked to respond non-verbally to questions. The question that prompted this particular pose, reports the Financial Times, was “Breakdown Peer, Problem Peer, Peerlusconi – you really don’t have to worry about getting any nice nicknames do you?”
While Steinbrück’s spokesperson immediately intervened to suggest the photo should not be published, reports the Telegraph, Steinbrück himself consented to it, saying, “No, it’s okay.”
The photograph has caused a storm in Germany, prompting criticism from politicians and members of the public, says the Telegraph. “This gesture is unacceptable for a Chancellor candidate,” said Philipp Roesler, the minister of economics and technology and member of Merkel’s junior coalition partner the Free Democrats, according to the Telegraph. “Something like that is just not on.”
On Twitter, under the tag #stinkefinger, one writer posed the question: “Gaffe or deliberate attempt to change the narrative? Either way judging by general reaction on German Twitter it has backfired.” Another said: “So Steinbrück’s given voters the finger before they collectively give him a giant one.”
The only comment from Steinbrück’s team so far appears to be this tweet from his official account, reports the Financial Times:
The translation, according to the Financial Times, is: “Clear text [a campaign pledge from Steinbrück to talk straight] does not always need words. For example, when one is constantly asked about hoary old chestnuts, instead of the really important questions.”