Relief for Merkel's Government FDP Euroskeptic Rebellion Fails
Members of the German government are probably breathing a hefty sign of relief after Friday's announcement that a euroskeptic rebellion within Angela Merkel's junior coalition partner has failed.
A faction within the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) led by Frank Schäffler, a high-profile opponent of efforts to rescue the euro, had tried to force the party to oppose the permanent euro backstop fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), by holding an internal party vote on the issue.
On Friday, the FDP leadership announced that the necessary quorum of votes had not been reached, rendering the referendum invalid. According to FDP leader Philipp Rösler, 21,503 votes would have been necessary -- representing a third of the membership -- but only 20,364 had been received.
In any case, a majority of the members who voted supported the party's current course, by 10,841 votes to 8,809. The party's members had been able to submit their votes in the postal ballot that began in October.
If the vote had passed, then the party would have been forced to oppose the introduction of the ESM, which will replace the temporary backstop fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, and is due to come into operation in mid-2012. Observers had warned that such a stance would probably have caused the German government to collapse. The FDP is the junior partner in the coalition government with Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
"The FDP remains clearly focused on a pro-European stance," party leader Philipp Rösler said on Friday. If the vote had passed, it would also have been a personal setback for Rösler, who supports Merkel's stance on fighting the debt crisis. Rösler is said to already be in a weak position as party leader, with some observers calling his days numbered. The party's general-secretary, Christian Lindner, resigned earlier this week following claims that he and Rösler had tried to influence the outcome of the vote.
The result will do little to resolve the ongoing crisis in the party, however. The infighting-plagued FDP currently stands at around 3 percent in the polls and would fail to even secure seats in the German parliament, the Bundestag, if elections were held now.