Life Support for FDP: Merkel's Coalition Partner Needs Help
Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partners, the Free Democrats, stumbled badly in Sunday's state election in Bavaria. The party hopes to convince conservatives to lend their votes in the general election next week. But Merkel is in no mood to be generous.
One could hardly imagine a worse result for the Free Democrats (FDP) than the one the business-friendly party received in Bavarian state elections on Sunday. A paltry 3.3 percent of the vote was all they could muster -- well below the five percent hurdle necessary for representation in the state's parliament. And a terrible omen for the national elections set to take place this coming Sunday.
"This coalition of conservatives and FDP, you can vote for it," said FDP General Secretary Patrick Döring on Monday. He said it could be "very clever" of voters to support Merkel's current coalition "by supporting a strong conservative candidate locally and then casting their second vote for the FDP."
"We will explain to people that it makes sense to split their votes if they want to see a continuation of the center-right coalition," said leading FDP member Wolfgang Kubicki in comments to the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper.
Even before the election in Bavaria, it had appeared likely that the FDP would need outside help to attract enough votes for representation in the Bundestag, Germany's federal parliament. But Sunday's vote brought that suspicion into focus. The Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, received 47.7 percent of the vote behind its powerful leader Horst Seehofer. It was enough for an absolute majority, easily outpacing the Social Democrats (20.6 percent), the Free Voters (9.0 percent) and the Greens (8.6 percent). Five years ago, the FDP received 8.0 percent in Bavaria, making Sunday's result look even worse.
No Love from the CDU
It is an experience that the CDU would prefer not to repeat, particularly in Sunday's vote. It is, after all, becoming increasingly obvious that German voters are more interested in a grand coalition -- matching up Merkel's conservatives with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) -- than a continuation of the chancellor's alliance with the FDP. A new survey carried out by the pollsters at Emnid for the newsmagazine Focus shows that 26 percent of those asked would like to see a grand coalition against just 17 percent favoring a center-left coalition and only 13 percent wanting to see a continuation of Merkel's current pairing.
Senior CDU members were at pains on Monday morning to nip the FDP strategy in the bud. Party General Secretary Hermann Gröhe on Monday morning told German public radio station Deutschlandfunk that "the second vote is a vote for Merkel and we want it for the conservatives." He was echoed by senior CDU member Armin Laschet, who said on public television that "it is important that CDU voters cast their ballots for the CDU."
So what will happen to the FDP next week? Polls show that it will be close. A survey conducted by INSA for Focus and released on Sunday found that nationwide support for the party stands at 4 percent.
cgh -- with wire reports
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