Soup, booze and Porsches: The not-so secret life of candidates

ANGELA MERKEL (LEFT) AND MARTIN SCHULZ (RIGHT)
ANGELA MERKEL (LEFT) AND MARTIN SCHULZ (RIGHT)
ALICE WEIDEL (LEFT) AND CHRISTIAN LINDNER (RIGHT)
ALICE WEIDEL (LEFT) AND CHRISTIAN LINDNER (RIGHT)
CEM OZDEMIR (LEFT) AND SAHRA WAGENKNECHT (RIGHT)
CEM OZDEMIR (LEFT) AND SAHRA WAGENKNECHT (RIGHT)

ANGELA MERKEL
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

The famously guarded Angela Merkel, who leads the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), shook up a sleepy campaign when she shared the secret of her potato soup recipe, revealing that she uses a masher instead of a blender. "Then there'll always be a few lumps left," Europe's most powerful woman told Bunte magazine last month.

She also opened up about her reclusive husband Joachim Sauer, a music lover so media-shy he has been dubbed the "Phantom of the Opera". Dr Merkel said: "He supports me by doing a lot of the grocery shopping."


MARTIN SCHULZ 
FROM BROKEN DREAMS TO BRUSSELS

Life almost took a very different turn for Mr Martin Schulz of the centre-left Social Democrats.

After quitting high school without a diploma, he pinned his hopes on becoming a professional football player. But a knee injury crushed that dream, and he turned to alcohol. He credits his brother with getting him back on the right track.

Mr Schulz became the youngest-ever mayor in his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia. His career took him to Brussels, where he later became head of the European Parliament - learning five languages along the way.


CHRISTIAN LINDNER
PORSCHE-LOVING POSTER BOY

The pro-business Free Democrats have plastered black-and-white close-ups of their leader Christian Lindner's face on campaign posters across the country. Not bad for a man who was overweight as a teenager. Mr Lindner says he shed 30kg after taking up jogging and going on a strict diet.

Showing the same tenacity elsewhere in life, he started his own ad agency at the age of 17. At 19, he bought his first Porsche. "I shouldn't have done that," he says now.

After his studies, he launched a software business that went under in the dot.com bubble of the 2000s.


ALICE WEIDEL
THE RIGHT-WING PARADOX

Former Goldman Sachs banker Alice Weidel is openly gay, and raising two children with her Sri Lankan-born partner.

She is also a leading candidate for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which prides itself on its anti-immigration and anti-elite leanings.

Acknowledging the apparent paradox, Ms Weidel said: "If we're being honest... the AfD doesn't seem like the first port of call when it comes to gay rights." But she has railed against the "Muslim gangs" who she says make it hard for gay couples to hold hands in the street.


SAHRA WAGENKNECHT
MYSTERY OF MISSING FATHER

The leader of the far-left Die Linke party, Sahra Wagenknecht, was born behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany in 1969, to a German mother and an Iranian father.

When she was just three years old, her student father went on a trip to his home country and was never heard from again.

His fate remains a mystery.

Ms Wagenknecht is one half of a political power couple with former Social Democrat heavyweight Oskar Lafontaine, a one-time finance minister who later defected to Die Linke.


CEM OZDEMIR
TURKEY CONNECTION

The co-leader of the Greens party, Mr Cem Ozdemir is Germany's best-known politician of Turkish origin.

Last year, he attracted the wrath of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for backing a parliamentary resolution that recognised the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians as genocide.

Such was the outrage over the resolution that Mr Ozdemir needed police protection.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 24, 2017, with the headline 'Soup, booze and Porsches: The not-so secret life of candidates'. Print Edition | Subscribe