Berlin - A German YouTuber's hour-long rant against Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party has gone viral, attracting more than five million views by Thursday and putting politicians on the back foot.
In the video "The destruction of the CDU", Rezo, who has more than a million followers on YouTube, accused the CDU-led government of making policies "for the rich" while failing to act on crucial issues like climate change.
Posted on May 18, a week before the European Parliament elections, the clip swiftly went viral, spreading Rezo's message of "how the CDU is currently destroying our lives".
"Go to vote... Otherwise the pensioners will decide your future, and that won't be cool," Rezo said, appealing to his mostly young audience.
The YouTuber with a trademark blue fringe poking out from under a baseball cap charged the Christian Democratic Union is "destroying its reputation, election result, and finally itself".
In a message to the ruling coalition, Rezo said: "You say that young people should be political, so then you have to handle it when they think your politics are shit."
The reach of the clip dwarfed the German audience of 1.68 million who watched the main pre-election TV debate, between Manfred Weber of the centre-right EPP bloc and his Socialist challenger Frans Timmermans.
CDU heavyweights hit back against the 26-year-old online star.
Party chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, poised to succeed Merkel when the veteran leader steps down by 2021, dismissed the wide-ranging attack by asking: "Why we're not also being held responsible for the seven plagues in ancient Egypt".
But with the video gaining momentum, the party took a more conciliatory tone, with CDU general secretary Paul Ziemiak inviting Rezo to a dialogue.
- 'Let us talk' -
"We don't do everything right," Ziemiak conceded on Twitter. "You have made points of criticism that are justified.
"Let us talk about your criticism of the CDU, but please also listen to us on how we see things."
Ziemiak told AFP he hoped his invitation would be accepted, so that "young people can then get a full picture from the debate".
The 33-year-old former youth wing chief also conceded his party was struggling to reach younger generations.
"We still have some way to go," said Ziemiak, adding that the party needs to "speak a comprehensible language".
As the centre-right party scrambled to put out the fire, satirical magazine Postillon joined in with a doctored picture of Kramp-Karrenbauer holding out the party's riposte on a VHS-cassette titled "CDU destroys Rezo".
The party's coalition partner SPD also rounded in, with the Social Democrats' general secretary Lars Klingbeil accusing the CDU of "insulting an entire generation" through its response.
It also emerged the CDU's youngest lawmaker, 26-year-old Philipp Amthor, had recorded a clip on Wednesday aiming to counter Rezo.
But the CDU leadership canned the attempt, Bild daily reported.
Amthor himself told national broadcaster ARD that the decision was a joint one between him and his party.
"Video is not the right format," he said. "We don't want an eternal exchange over video, but an exchange based on arguments and facts."AFP