Heads roll after poll fiasco for Merkel's FDP allies

23rd September 2013, Comments 0 comments

The leader of Germany's Free Democrats (FDP) resigned Monday after the party's worst-ever election defeat, which saw it kicked out of parliament where it was junior partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

Outgoing vice chancellor Philipp Roesler, who quit as leader leader of the pro-business party, and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle are among the cabinet members who lost their seats in the party's ballot box disaster.

"It is the heaviest and worst defeat in the history of the party," said Roesler, 40, who has also served as economy minister.

The FDP -- which had spent more time in governments, always as a junior partner, than any other German party since it was first elected in 1949 -- failed to even clear the minimum five-percent hurdle that is meant to keep out fringe parties.

Roesler and a dejected top candidate Rainer Bruederle, 68, had both declared Sunday they would "take the political consequences".

The FDP's young new hope is Christian Lindner, 34, a former general secretary who now leads the party in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

He would be tasked with revitalising the party, still represented in several state legislatures, that gave Germany many well-known foreign ministers, including Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who with chancellor Helmut Kohl oversaw Germany's 1990 reunification.

The FDP, known as the Liberals, has gradually shifted its focus since the end of the Cold War from political liberalism and a defence of individual freedoms to economic liberalism and the defence of free market capitalism.

With its rejection of more taxes for the rich or of a minimum wage for the poor, it is known to many Germans as "the party of dentists and lawyers".

The FDP's election outcome spells "a huge shift in Germany's political architecture," said Berenberg Bank chief economist Holger Schmieding. "The defeat for the FDP will weaken the liberal voice."

© 2013 AFP

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