Photo Gallery The Rise and Fall of Guido Westerwelle

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has had a rollercoaster career. He led his Free Democratic Party, junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, to its biggest election triumph in 2009 but has since suffered a slide in support and has been forced to quit as party leader.
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Guido Westerwelle gave in to mounting pressure to quit as party chairman and announced on Sunday he won't stand for re-election at the FDP's congress in May. He intends to remain foreign minister though.

Foto: Michael Kappeler/ dpa
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Guido Westerwelle joined the FDP at 19, co-founded the party's youth arm and led it for five years. This photo shows him at at an FDP party conference in 1986. He studied law at the universities of Cologne and Bonn and became a lawyer.

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Westerwelle, born in 1961, was mentored by former FDP leader Klaus Kinkel and became general secretary of the party in 1994. He pledged to make the FDP more attractive to younger voters.

Foto: Jens_Büttner/ picture-alliance / dpa
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Westerwelle in 1997. He nurtured his youthful, relaxed image in the media and reinforced his position in the party with a combative stance towards the FDP's coalition ally, the Christian Democratic Union of then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Foto: Ursula_Düren/ picture-alliance / dpa
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Westerwelle with Angela Merkel, the environment minister at the time, in 1998. The two formed a center-right coalition 11 years later, in 2009.

Foto: Tim_Brakemeier/ picture-alliance / dpa
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Westerwelle, pictured here with former FDP chairman Wolfgang Gerhardt (C) and former FDP Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (R), was elected chairman of the FDP in May 2001.

Foto: Uli_Deck/ picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb
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His style of politics was light-hearted at first. He intiated "Project 18," a bid to get 18 percent of the vote in the 2002 general election, and engaged in various campaign stunts. The photo shows him as a muscular Mister 18 at a carneval rally in February 2001.

Foto: Martin Athenstädt/ picture-alliance/ dpa
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He toured Germany in a "Guidomobil" bus during the 2002 election campaign, made an appearance on the German Big Brother show, played beach volleyball....

Foto: DDP
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...and famously had his election goal printed on the soles of his shows. In the end, the FDP only scored 7.4 percent in the 2002 election.

Foto: DDP
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But he triumphed in the 2009 election when the FDP scored its best ever result of 14.6 percent. The FDP was able to form a coalition with Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats after 11 years in opposition.

Foto: DDP
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In power at last. Westerwelle, who is openly gay, became foreign minister. He is shown here celebrating the FDP's victory with his partner Michael Mronz. The two have since married.

Foto: Joern Pollex/ Getty Images
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But the new coalition got off to a poor start, with constant disputes over tax cuts, health reforms and austerity measures. Opinion polls showed the public was unimpressed with the FDP's performance in government, and by mid-2010, opinion poll ratings were falling fast.

Foto: Berthold Stadler/ APN
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A leadership debate ensued and after the FDP suffered major losses in two state elections on March 27, the pressure on Westerwelle to step down intensified. He is shown here with FDP general secretary Christian Lindner, a possible successor as party chairman.

Foto: Wolfgang Kumm/ dpa
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Westerwelle, shown here at a charity gala in Berlin last December, was often accused of being too combative and too strident in his rhetoric.

Foto: dapd
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His performance as foreign minister has also occasionally come under fire. Critics say Germany damaged its international standing by abstaining last month in a UN Security Council vote on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

Foto: Arno Burgi/ picture alliance / dpa
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