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Germany

Left Party Chooses TV Detective as Presidential Candidate

Germany's Left Party has voted to send TV actor Peter Sodann up against more experienced political opponents as its candidate in the coming campaign for president.

German actor Peter Sodann addresses a news conference in Berlin

Actor Peter Sodann is hoping to swap his role as a TV detective for that of German president

Ronald Reagan managed to put a Hollywood career behind him to become the leader of the free world and Arnold Schwarzenegger has more recently swapped his role as an ultra-violent cyborg for that of the environmentally-friendly overseer of the biggest state economy in the United States. As a result of this foresight in seeing political capital in promoting entertainers to public office, actors-stroke-politicians have grown in credibility.

The success of Reagan and Schwarzenegger must have featured in the thought process which led to the Left party's decision Tuesday, Oct. 13, to send television detective Peter Sodann up against incumbent Horst Koehler and Social Democratic challenger Gesine Schwan in the campaign to become Germany's next president.

Swapping crime drama for politics

Sodann, left, in his role as Kommissar Ehrlicher in Tatort

Sodann, left, in his role as Kommissar Ehrlicher in Tatort

Sodann, better known among TV fans as Kommissar Ehrlicher in the German cult crime series Tatort, was once considered a candidate for the Bundestag for the Left Party's former incarnation, the PDS, in the 2005 parliamentary election. However, he withdrew from the campaign only two days after announcing he would run -- the reason being that his television paymasters would refuse to consider him for future roles.

While an unusual choice on the surface, Sodann has some experience in dealing with political power. One of East Germany's most popular actors, Sodann was incarcerated for two years by the East German communist regime in the 1960s for directing a student theater whose program was defined as being "counter revolutionary." He served nine months of his sentence before being released from prison.

The actor, who featured in 45 episodes of Tatort between 1991 and 2007, has little realistic chance of winning.

However, while the Left party must know it is effectively making up the numbers by putting forward Sodann as their candidate, the publicity will no doubt raise the party's profile even further at a time when it is making gains on the fractured Social Democrats and embattled Christian Democratic Union ahead of September 2009 parliamentary elections.

Left Party looking for boosts to popularity

Actress Hanna Schygulla poses on a beach in Neve Yam near Atlit, Israel in this 1985 photo

Hanna Schygulla was also considered by the Left Party

Sodann's candidacy is not the first attempt by the Left Party to install an entertainer in the position of Germany's most prominent diplomat. Hanna Schygulla, a protagonist in a number of films by director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, was also considered as a candidate before being rejected by a party vote.

Sodann will stand against Koehler, the conservative incumbent, and SPD's Schwan in the vote on May 23 when an assembly of lawmakers and state delegates elect the president.

At present, Koehler appears to have just enough support to win re-election, while Schwan would need Left party votes to have any chance of winning. It is unclear whether the party would support her if Sodann is eliminated in an early round of voting.

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