BERLÍN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has published a photo of himself with an eye-patch after he fell while out jogging. The incident occurred on Saturday near his home in Potsdam, near Berlin.
He canceled regional election events on Sunday because of the accident, but will attend engagements as normal, including giving numerous public speeches over the next few days.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, he said it “looks worse than it is”.
The fall was not serious, but the photo shows some bruising around the eye, as well as on his nose and chin.
His spokesman said the chancellor was in a “good mood” but looked “battered”, and that Mr Scholz published the photo so people could get used to how he will look in the next few weeks.
In the post on X, he said he was “looking forward to the memes”.
Some social media users jokingly connected the injuries to rows within the governing coalition, while the internet site of the city of Cologne, which hosts a large annual carnival, suggested that revellers could come next year dressed as “Pirate Olaf”.
Judging from the overwhelming positive comments online, German voters seem to like Chancellor Scholz’s new pirate image. Or maybe they were just pleasantly surprised by a PR coup from a leader who is often seen in Germany as a poor communicator.
In a survey by public TV station ZDF in August, 72% said Scholz avoided giving concrete answers to questions more often than other politicians. In another ZDF survey in August 51% of voters were dissatisfied with him, compared to 43% of those who were satisfied.
These are low ratings for a German chancellor.
His rhetoric can come across as repetitive and formulaic and he likes to decide on policy behind closed doors, and only then announce the result. Critics said this appears arrogant and opaque, and compared to more media-savvy colleagues he can appear wooden and old-fashioned.
But Scholz’s main problem is that he leads a three-way governing coalition, in which each party has very different goals and ideologies. In the face of numerous crises, from inflation to Russia’s war in Ukraine, this uncomfortable coalition is seriously strained.
His coalition has ambitious plans to reform Germany and its supporters say that in the past two years Scholz’s government has pushed through more change than Angela Merkel did in 16 years.
But fights regularly break out between the business-friendly low-tax liberal Free Democrat Party (FDP) and the left-leaning Greens.
He is even often out of step with many in his own center-left Social Democrat Party (SDP), which is more left-wing fiscally than Scholz, a centerist former finance minister. The internal rows irritate voters and have led to a fall in support.
According the latest poll from Sunday, if an election were held now the government would win just 38% of the vote and lose its majority. The chancellor’s own SPD party has fallen to 18% in the polls, catastrophic for a party that used to hit 40% in elections.
Scholz’s only consolation is that voters don’t appear to be opting for the opposition conservatives either. His main opponent for Germany’s top job, conservative leader Friedrich Merz, is even more unpopular.
Given the dire mood in German politics at the moment, voters are probably grateful for any sort of light relief that reveals Olaf Scholz to be man with a sense of humor. — BBC