Leader of Free Democrats Plots Return to German Parliament
The head of the socially liberal, pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), Christian Lindner, is confident that his party will return to the German parliament in 2017 after a three-year absence.
“I am entirely certain that the FDP will be successful,” Mr. Lindner told Handelsblatt in an exclusive interview before a key party meeting in Stuttgart this week.
The Free Democrats have traditionally served as a kingmaker in post-war German politics, entering coalitions with both the center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats.
The party’s previous leader, the late Guido Westerwelle, proved deeply unpopular with the German public after leading the party to historic gains in the 2009 federal elections.
In the 2013 federal elections, however, the Free Democrats failed to garner the 5-percent support needed to win representation in the German parliament, the Bundestag.
The Free Democrats, who served as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner from 2009 until 2013, failed to implement key campaign pledges while in government.
But Mr. Lindner said the party’s classical liberal philosophy still appeals to German voters, despite an upswing in right-wing populism manifested by the Alternative for Germany party, or AfD.
The Free Democrats have proposed €30 billion ($31 billion) in tax relief, a strong state response to terrorism, and investments in education, innovation and digitalization.
“Our business model needs an update if we want to maintain our prosperity,” Mr. Lindner said.
The Free Democrats are currently represented in nine of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments. Surveys show the party garnering double-digit support in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, and Schleswig-Holstein in the north.
Nationally, the Free Democrats are polling at 6 percent, just above the 5-percent threshold. Mr. Lindner has called for a change in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Europe policy as precondition for joining a potential governing coalition.
“We want another Europe policy,” Mr. Lindner said. “We want a return to law in the question of refugees as well as monetary policy. The FDP would not support new treaty violations.”
Even if the Free Democrats win parliamentary representation, it’s unlikely they will join a coalition government. The Free Democrats are no longer Ms. Merkel’s preferred coalition partner.