• Germany's news in English

Merkel's partner picks leader for crucial fight

The Local · 11 Mar 2013, 10:00

Published: 11 Mar 2013 10:00 GMT+01:00

The pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), which has governed with Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union since 2009, selected Rainer Brüderle, 67, to represent them in the September 22 vote in Europe's top economy.

He was responsible for sparking a national debate about sexism in Germany when a 29-year-old female reporter wrote that he leered at her breasts and told her, "you could also fill out a dirndl," Bavaria's low-cut dress for women.

But this was not addressed at the FDP meeting - Brüderle was focussed on trying to rally his toops.

"People want a strong voice for freedom. The chance is there for us. We should use it and we want to use it," said Brüderle during a 75-minute speech at the party conference in Berlin.

"I know you will all fight with me," he told the 600 delegates, who responded by giving him a five-minute standing ovation. "Let's go into battle," he shouted, to cheers and applause.

There was no formal vote to elect Brüderle, who was economy minister under Merkel between October 2009 and May 2011, but a show of hands suggested he

had considerable backing from the party faithful.

Brüderle has a tough scrap ahead of him, as the party struggles to turn around its fortunes following years of internal bickering and plunging support.

The FDP was the surprise package in the 2009 elections, polling 14.6 percent and giving Merkel the combined votes needed to form a viable government.

But following a failure to push through promised tax cuts and a brief flirtation with a more eurosceptic line, supporters left in droves and the party suffered a series of catastrophic regional election defeats. It ditched its then leader Guido Westerwelle, who nonetheless hung onto his job as Foreign Minister, yet failed to revive poll figures.

The party has consistently failed to score the five percent required to win seats in the Bundestag lower house of parliament and would be cast into political oblivion if this performance were repeated in September.

The latest survey, published on Sunday by polling institute Emnid for the Bild am Sonntag weekly newspaper, put the FDP at four percent.

The election reverses took their poll on the party's leaders with Westerwelle stepping down as party head, to be replaced by Philipp Rösler, currently economy minister and vice-chancellor in Merkel's cabinet.

But the 40-year-old also came under heavy fire with the party languishing in the polls and eventually stepped aside as the FDP chancellor candidate although remained party head.

Rösler was re-elected party leader on Saturday with 85.7 percent of the vote.

Story continues below…

The FDP's troubles are also a headache for Merkel.

She has repeatedly stated that she wants to continue in government with the FDP but their weakness may yet force her to negotiate with other parties to form a workable coalition.

Both Merkel and her party remain highly popular in Germany and polls show her conservatives enjoy a sizeable lead over the nearest rivals, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).

However, if the FDP is unable to turn its fortunes around, analysts say she could yet be forced into another so-called "Grand Coalition" with the SPD, like that which governed Germany between 2005 and 2009.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

11:04 March 11, 2013 by IchBinKönig
'But following a failure to push through promised tax cuts and a brief flirtation with a more eurosceptic line, supporters left in droves'

Seems to me there is still a bit of a 'flirtation' with a more 'bit' more eurosceptic line.

Ja, Ja. Herr Brüderle, no arguments left?

20:30 March 11, 2013 by bwjijsdtd
Making a fist, pounding the table ... yelling, screaming .... reminds me of another politician ... 1933 ... you know the outcome of that little idiot ...
Today's headlines
No injuries after blast near Bavarian migrant centre
A sign at the Zirndorf migrant centre. Photo: DPA

A suitcase, likely packed with aerosol cans, has blown up near a migrant centre on the outskirts of Nuremberg, causing no injuries, police confirm.

Not your average student digs: 'amazing' plastic bubble
Photo: DPA

Could this wacky experiment be the future of student housing?

Police settle train violence over smelly feet
Not the feet in question. Photo: Caitlin Regan/Flickr

A fellow passenger's foot odour proved too much for one traveller to stomach.

How Berliners are responding to the Bavaria attacks
Photo: DPA

Is fear of terrorism creeping up on the capital?

Munich gunman was far-right racist: media reports
Photo: DPA

According to research by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the Munich gunman was proud to have been born on the same day as Hitler and hated Turks and Arabs.

Ansbach suicide attack
Ansbach bomber ‘influenced’ by third person: officials
Photo: DPA

Officials in Bavaria have said that the man who blew himself up in an apparent Islamist attack on Sunday was influenced by an as yet unknown person.

What is the link between the attacks in Germany last week?
Police on guard in Munich. Photo: DPA

And how likely are 'copycat' attacks?

Rights experts call for calm after string of violent attacks
Bavaria has called for soldiers to protect the German border. Photo: DPA

Human rights groups and legal experts are warning the government to react responsibly to the attacks and rampages which have taken place in Germany in recent days.

France church attacker had been arrested in Germany
Photo: DPA

A neighbour described the man as a "ticking time bomb".

Dutch join hunt for German terrorists-turned-outlaws
From left to right: Ernst-Volker Staub, Daniela Klette and Burkhard Garweg. Photo: DPA.

Dutch police on Tuesday told people to be on the lookout for three German far-left militants, at large for decades and suspected of a string of recent heists.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd