• Germany edition
 
Merkel's partner picks leader for crucial fight
Photo: DPA

Merkel's partner picks leader for crucial fight

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

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.

AFP/mjl

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?

http://youtu.be/Zz7eC1tBsgQ
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
Berlin slams Italy Nazi claims court ruling
Italy's National Partisans' Association welcomed the court decision. Photo: DPA

Berlin slams Italy Nazi claims court ruling

Italy's constitutional court has ruled that victims of Nazi-era war crimes can sue Germany in Italian courts, rejecting a UN ruling and provoking a strong reaction from Berlin on Friday. READ  

Expats reveal another side of Berlin Wall
Photo: Paul Sullivan

Expats reveal another side of Berlin Wall

Two expats who walked the Mauerweg - the 160-kilometre trail that runs the length of the former Berlin Wall - have written a book about forgotten aspects of its past and present. READ  

Karstadt closes six stores to stay afloat
Photo: DPA

Karstadt closes six stores to stay afloat

Germany's biggest department store chain Karstadt will close at least six stores, putting around 2,000 jobs at risk, in a drastic bid by its new boss to return it to profit. READ  

Quiz
How well do you know Germany?
Photos: DPA/Shutterstock

How well do you know Germany?

Do you know your Saxony facts from your Saxony-Anhalt ones? Test your knowledge of Germany's federal states in The Local's quiz. READ  

Climate chief hails Bonn greenhouse gas deal
Pollution from a coal-fired power station in Frimmersdorf, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

Climate chief hails Bonn greenhouse gas deal

The UN's climate chief hailed a European agreement in Bonn on greenhouse gases on Friday as providing "valuable momentum" for a world pact to be inked in Paris next year. READ  

Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth
Photo: DPA

Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth

Germany will get an early Christmas present of around €779 million from the EU, thanks to weaker than expected GDP growth. READ  

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told
Photo: DPA

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told

It will take several days to find out what caused a massive explosion on Thursday which rocked a town on the Rhine, killing a builder and injuring 26 others. READ  

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'
An NH90 helicopter. Photo: DPA

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'

Germany's fleet of NH90 helicopters is undergoing engineering checks after one of them suffered a serious engine failure, in the latest blow to the country's military capabilities. READ  

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m
Rainer Schwarz at a court hearing in September into the case. Photo: DPA

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m

The man who was blamed for Berlin's miserable attempt to build a new airport must be paid more than €1 million - after being fired. READ  

Steinmeier challenges UN over Isis gas reports
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Kurds watching the attack on Kobane. Photo: DPA

Steinmeier challenges UN over Isis gas reports

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pressed UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon to bring possible poison gas use by Isis in Iraq before the Security Council. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Politics
Satirist lives the dream on EU gravy train
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: Huge explosion rocks Ludwigshafen
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
Which high school cliche is your German city?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Storm hits southern Germany
Sponsored Article
An international school unlike any other : School on the Rhine
Photo: Fitzpatrick family
Society
'We still don't know what happened to Matthew'
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,532
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd