When European Parliament member Bernd Posselt failed to get reelected last year, he simply decided to ignore the election results. One week after his defeat, the 59-year-old entered the European Union's legislative building in Strasbourg as if nothing had happened -- and has done so, ever since.
The member of Germany's CSU party, a powerful local party which is aligned with Angela Merkel's governing CDU, still participates in parliamentary debates and refuses to lay off his bureau chief. Back at home in German Bavaria, he holds weekly roundtables with citizens to discuss their concerns. Posselt says that he pays privately for nearly all of his expenses.
"I often jokingly say that I'm an honorary European member of Parliament, but of course I know that I'm not," the politician told WorldViews in a phone interview on Thursday. As a former MP, Posselt is allowed access to the parliamentary building in Strasbourg and its committees. However, nobody besides Posselt makes such frequent use of this rule.
"Whereas others go to Mallorca and sit down beneath a palm tree, I travel to the European Parliament on my own costs," Posselt told Spiegel Online, referring to other former MPs who lost their seats. "Europe is the task of my life ... and the European unification is way too important to leave it only to career politicians," he added.
Some online commentators have applauded Posselt for his determination; whereas others have ridiculed him for his inability to accept his defeat. His party defends his enthusiasm and has refuted claims that such behavior undermines the outcome of the 2014 election.
"I don't understand why this is such a big deal," Posselt said on Thursday, responding to the criticism. "Why should I be prohibited from engaging voluntarily? I'm not primarily interested in my career, but in pursuing political goals. Voters still come to me to share their concerns and it is my responsibility to represent their voices," he said. Posselt does not have voting rights in the E.U. Parliament and can only indirectly impact decisions.
Asked why he did not simply accept his electoral defeat, Posselt answered: "It wasn't me who lost the election. I simply had an unfortunate place on my party's list of candidates which seemed safe, but turned out not to be."
Since 1994, Posselt had worked as an MP in the E.U. Parliament. According to himself, he hasn't been sick a single day. A reporter for the Oberbayerisches Volksblatt newspaper, who visited Posselt in Strasbourg, recently described the oddness of the former MP's regular visits to the parliament. "One has to see it in order to believe it: With the utmost naturalness, happily winking, he takes his spot in the first row. Employees hurry toward him and press a yellow folder filled with documents into his hand. After 10 minutes, the conference leader passes the floor onto Bernd Posselt who holds a passionate speech about Russia's foreign policy. Applause, pats on his back." Other daily duties of the former MP include sneaking into official E.U. photo shoots or sitting in his parliamentary office which does not actually belong to him, according to the paper.
That's why many still treat Posselt as if he were an actual parliament member. Earlier this year, for instance, the Russian government put him on a sanctions list and barred him from future entry into Russia. After months as a shadow MP, Posselt suddenly found himself in the spotlight again. Posselt quickly gave an interview to Germany's Muenchner Merkur newspaper, saying: "I think this (travel ban) is a dubbing for my decades-long support for human rights, not only in Russia." Referring to the Russian government, Posselt continued to say that he was happy that the opposing site had taken notice of his work.
According to Oberbayerisches Volksblatt, Posselt could easily become a member of the German parliament if he were interested.
Posselt, however, is interested in something else."I would rather work as the doorman of the European Parliament, than as the president of a country," Posselt told The Post, echoing a statement he had previously made in German media outlets.
In 2019, Posselt wants to try again and attempt to win a seat in the European Parliament. For the next four years, though, he will simply continue to act as if he had never lost it.