German FDP Leader Roesler Resigns After Record Ballot Defeat

German Free Democratic Party chief Philipp Roesler resigned today after the FDP suffered the biggest defeat in its postwar history. Christian Lindner, FDP chairman in North Rhine-Westphalia, may succeed him.

The FDP, which served as the junior partner in Christian and Social Democrat-led governments, won 4.8 percent in yesterday’s federal election, less than the 5 percent needed to enter the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

“This was the biggest and worst defeat for the FDP since its creation,” Roesler, 40, told reporters in Berlin today. “I take responsibility and told the party leadership that I’m offering my resignation.”

Lindner, 34, said he wants to lead the party. In North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, the FDP under Lindner won 8.6 percent of the votes in a regional election last year.

“It’s my goal as FDP chairman, if the party congress affirms me, to give this liberal party its respect back,” Lindner told reporters in Berlin. “Germany needs a liberal party and it will be our special task to make this party respected, competent and successful again.”

The FDP, founded in 1948 by members of liberal parties that existed before World War II, entered the Bundestag a year later under Germany’s first chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, a Christian Democrat. It governed for 13 years in coalition with the SPD, serving under Helmut Schmidt, before aligning with the CDU in 1982 to start the 16-year reign of Helmut Kohl.

Faith in Lindner

The FDP held the balance of power more than any other party in postwar Germany’s history. The party’s worst result contrasts with its best of 14.6 percent gained four years ago, enabling it to enter into coalition with Angela Merkel’s party.

“We place a lot of confidence and hope in Christian Lindner,” outgoing health minister Daniel Bahr, a Free Democrat, told reporters. “He can do it, he’s proved it in North Rhine-Westphalia in a difficult situation” when he led the FDP back into the state’s parliament, Bahr said.

Lindner indicated the FDP won’t shift its stance on bailout policies for the euro region to win back the votes it lost to the anti-euro Alternative for Germany party, which clinched 4.7 percent at yesterday’s election.

“We’re a party that advanced European integration over years and decades,” Lindner said, naming Walter Scheel and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, both FDP foreign ministers, as examples. “We want Europe to develop into a union of stability.”

Led by Guido Westerwelle, foreign minister under Merkel, the FDP scored its best federal election result in 2009 with a promise to lower taxes. The party’s policy pledges were put on hold by Merkel as the recession of 2009 unfolded and with the onset of the debt crisis in 2010.

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