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FDP says Westerwelle criticism threatens democracy

AFP/DDP/The Local · 12 Mar 2010, 16:11

Published: 12 Mar 2010 16:11 GMT+01:00

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“We must be careful that democracy overall isn’t damaged by accusations such as the ones being construed,” Christian Lindner, the general secretary of Westerwelle's pro-business Free Democrats, told broadcaster ZDF.

Lindner called the widespread criticism of the foreign minster a “defamation campaign” and urged “respectful behaviour among democrats, to which basic standards of propriety belong.”

Media reports have said that a business delegation accompanying Westerwelle, on a recent trip to China and Japan included the head of a firm part-owned by the foreign minister’s brother. Newspapers also said the group included a businessman who had made a €160,000 donation to the FDP, which is junior coalition partner to Merkel's conservatives.

Westerwelle, Europe's first openly gay top diplomat, has also come under fire for taking his partner, sporting events promoter Michael Mronz, on the Asian trip and to South America this week. Critics said it was unclear whether Mronz was taking part in his personal capacity as the minister's partner or as a successful businessman included in the industry delegation.

The accusations of favouritism have likely been fuelled by Westerwelle’s recent controversial rhetoric about Germany’s welfare system, Lindner told ZDF.

And opposition politicians didn’t hold back this week.

"Westerwelle is damaging the federal republic, he is damaging the image of the Foreign Ministry," said Renate Künast, a senior figure in the environmentalist Green party.

The socialist Left party’s deputy parliamentary leader Gesine Lötzsch accused Westerwelle of being “corrupt” and working to make his partner, friends and donors “even richer.”

On Thursday, Westerwelle angrily responded to the criticism, accusing the opposition of seeking to score political points "with personal attacks against me and my family."

Merkel’s spokesperson Sabine Heimbach followed with tepid support on Friday, saying: "The chancellor is convinced that ministers, and in this case the foreign minister, take their decisions in accordance with the rules."

The FDP agreed to form a coalition with Merkel's conservatives late last year after spending more than a decade in opposition, but governing has been anything but smooth sailing since for Westerwelle.

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The coalition parties have failed to see eye to eye over tax cuts, while Westerwelle sparked reams of media coverage last month for likening Germany's welfare state to the "decadence" of the last days of the Roman Empire.

In January it emerged that the FDP had received a €1.1-million donation from a hotel proprietor shortly before the government agreeing tax cuts for the sector.

Poll ratings meanwhile have fallen sharply for both the FDP and Merkel's Christian Democrats, setting the scene for a close fight in state elections in May in North Rhine-Westphalia. A loss for the CDU/FDP government there could cause the centre-right alliance to lose its majority in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.

AFP/DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:35 March 12, 2010 by Johnny Cash
Is it only Westerwelle that understands it is the small and medium sized business that create most of the wealth and jobs in a country that need help from the government not the big boys who are outsourcing and exporting jobs. Must say that I am enjoying all the turmoil that the Japanese car makers are experiencing from all this wonderful globalisation. Keep it up Guido
21:07 March 12, 2010 by peschvogel
Germany needs someone like Westerwelle who is not afraid to speak his mind. Merkel plays politiks too much and tries to please everyone. Westerwelle is a lawyer and can make arguments, defend them and cross examine. Merkel is of the old school of communism, Bismark, and Dieter Bohlen. Germany needs someone like Westerwelle who will get rid of its baggage (welfare) and start a new path. You can see the polls asking who is in charge. I say its Westerwelle's smarts and strategy.
23:28 March 12, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, the previous comments made by Peschvogel are interesting. There was also an article on Newsweek a few days ago. I said that Europe needs a leader and that Bundeskanzlerin Merkel is the most likely choice. Although she does well to manage affairs, however, she does not appear to be someone who has a desire to offers new ideas and pave new roads.

As far as Westerwelle, he does not have the easy-going, smooth and persausive character. I do nontheless agree with the Peschvogel, in that Westerwelle is not afraid to speak the truth. It is a very rare characteristic for a politician.

An ideal leader would have Angela's easy-going temperment and Westerwelle's direct, honest, call-it-as-it-is character.
09:23 March 13, 2010 by mixxim
Rename him nockenwelle???? There is no such thing as true democracy, we are fooled by our leaders if we believe we live in one.
18:42 March 14, 2010 by Talonx
Peschvogel, WHAT!!??!?! hahahahahaha, that's rich, do you think Merkel is a communist because she grew up in the east? Wow, pass me some of what your smoking.

As for Westerwelle, 'speaking the truth', I would say his favouritism throws serious doubt on such a supposition. Do you folks just look at the titles of these articles and not read them before posting? It's all pretty straightforward.
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