Shun Merkel party over climate at EU vote: German YouTube stars

Hui Min NEO
The CDU was caught off guard by online star Rezo's blistering attack, who blamed the coalition for failing to tackle poverty and climate change (AFP Photo/JOHN MACDOUGALL)

Berlin (AFP) - Germany's biggest online stars closed ranks Friday around YouTuber Rezo whose rant against Chancellor Angela Merkel's party has gone viral, with an open letter urging voters to shun her coalition's parties at EU elections over their climate failings.

In the nearly hour-long video "The destruction of the CDU", Rezo accused the Merkel-led coalition of failing to act on crucial issues like global warming while making policies "for the rich".

Put online on May 18, the clip had been viewed 7.5 million times by Friday, throwing Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party into crisis-fighting mode.

CDU heavyweights initially hit out at blue-haired Rezo, accusing him of false claims or oversimplifying the issues, before taking a more conciliatory tone inviting him to dialogue.

But the damage had been done.

On Friday, the problem snowballed with 70 YouTubers -- some with more than five million followers -- joining Rezo in a riposte explicitly telling voters to shun the parties in Merkel's coalition.

The staggered EU elections will he held on Sunday in Germany as well as a host of other countries.

"Don't vote for the CDU-CSU, don't vote for the SPD," they said, referring to the Christian Social Union, the CDU's sister party in Bavaria, as well as the centre-left Social Democrat Party.

The YouTubers, who include influencers like Julien Bam or DagiBee, added that the far-right AfD -- a populist anti-immigration party, should also be rejected.

"The irreversible destruction of our planet is unfortunately not an abstract scenario but the predictable result of the current policies," they said.

"The experts say clearly that the course taken by the CDU-CSU and the SPD is drastically wrong and is taking us into a situation in which the Earth is getting inexorably warmer, no matter what we do," they added.

- 'Haven't won any friends' -

The climate crisis has exposed a generational split in Germany with adults and the elderly accused of hanging on to their polluting diesels while youth are urging change by going on school strikes.

The YouTubers' attacks have also blind-sided the CDU, which for several days struggled to find a response to put out the fire.

Party chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, poised to succeed Merkel when the veteran leader steps down by 2021, had initially dismissed the wide-ranging attack by Rezo by asking "why we're not also being held responsible for the seven plagues in ancient Egypt".

But as momentum was clearly with Rezo's video, the CDU's youngest lawmaker, 26-year-old Philipp Amthor, quickly recorded a clip on Wednesday aiming to counter Rezo -- only to have the attempt canned by his party.

In a statement on its website, the CDU said it wondered if countering the criticism with another video would "bring about real political debate or if it would just turn politics into a spectacle".

It finally decided against publishing Amthor's clip, and opted instead to invite Rezo for a political dialogue.

The CDU, referring to the scientific studies or excerpts from press conferences cited by Rezo, said it "will not give a hasty response to a stilted thesis and will not react with oversimplified conclusions to bold interpretations of statistics".

"The currency of YouTubers is click rates. The currency of a people's party like the CDU is trust," the party said in a statement.

The CDU's response did not go down well, with the young online stars voicing anger Friday at establishment politicians' patronising attitude.

"Dear politician: of course you now have the possibility to discredit us again," they said.

"You can accuse us of not having any plan to tackle what we're talking about. That we're lying. That we're participating in a fake news campaign.

"You have already used all these respectless techniques against us this year, against your own people. And we are speaking for very many citizens when we say: you haven't won yourself any friends."