The pro-business FDP was trounced in Baden-Württemberg and turfed out of the state legislature in Rhineland-Palatinate on Sunday, increasing the pressure on Westerwelle, who is also Germany's vice chancellor, to relinquish his party post as chairman.
Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a member of the FDP's leadership council, told Stern magazine on Wednesday that Westerwelle should announce his intention to resign before a party conference in Rostock in May.
“A party chairman who loses crucial elections also has to face the consequences as party chairman,” he said, adding Westerwelle clearly had not been able to cope with the demands of his party post and his duties as foreign minister.
Chatzimarkakis said the FDP, which is the junior coalition partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), needed Christian Lindner, the party's general secretary, to take over.
“Lindner is willing to go against the grain and speak the truth. He doesn't slavishly chain himself to the (conservatives) like Westerwelle has,” Chatzimarkakis said. “I see him as the natural successor.”
Christian Schmitt, the head of the FDP's parliamentary group in the state of Saarland, told news agency DPA on Wednesday that Westerwelle should not remain foreign minister either.
“I don't think Westerwelle is qualified to be foreign minister,” he said. “He hasn't convinced me in the past year and a half at the Foreign Ministry.”
Schmitt said Westwerwelle would be best suited to head the FDP in parliament, but if he attempted to remain party chairman he would need to replace the rest of the Free Democratic leadership team, including his deputies Andreas Pinkwart, Cornelia Pieper and Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle.
“There has to be a coordinated overall personnel concept that sells liberal ideas in sympathetic way,” he said.
Brüderle has already given up his state leadership post in Rhineland-Palatinate after being widely blamed for torpedoing the election chances of the FDP and the CDU by admitting Merkel's centre-right coalition had reversed its nuclear energy policy in a cynical attempt to pander to voters.
Members of the FDP's youth organization on Wednesday called for Brüderle to resign as economy minister after his damaging gaffe. Henning Höne, the head of the Junge Liberalen in North Rhine-Westphalia also said Westerwelle needed to step aside at the FDP party conference in May so the party could begin to rebuild.
“No-one can be spared from this personnel discussion – not even the party chairman,” he told Essen-based daily Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.