Leading German coalition ally steps down

14th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

A leader in Germany's Free Democratic Party (FDP), the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government, announced in an unexpected move on Wednesday that he was stepping down.

The surprise resignation of 32-year-old Christian Lindner as general secretary follows intense criticism over the organisation of an internal FDP party referendum on the eurozone's permanent bailout fund.

Like party leader, Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler, Lindner declared the internal vote, prompted by eurosceptics in the party, had failed days before the deadline for members to cast their ballots.

As FDP general secretary, Lindner was the party's number two alongside its parliamentary group leader. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is also a FDP party member.

"Today I have presented my resignation to Philipp Roesler during a meeting with him," Lindner told a hastily called news conference in Berlin.

The pro-business Free Democrats, in power with Merkel's conservatives nationally since 2009, have been in disarray amid internal bickering and a series of humiliating electoral setbacks.

In seven regional elections in 2011, the FDP has been ignominiously shut out of the state parliament in five.

The Berlin vote in September, in which the FDP failed by a wide margin to clear the five-percent hurdle to win a seat, saw it overtaken by "upstarts", the Pirate Party, which won its first seat in a German state parliament.

Voters turned away from the party after its failure to push through promised tax cuts and an attempt to flirt with euroscepticism.

Chief whip of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, Thomas Oppermann, reacted to the resignation telling reporters that Lindner was a "fall guy" for party chief Roesler.

© 2011 AFP

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