Merkel Courted by Pro-Market Party Seeking Return From the Wilderness

  • Free Democrats seek power share, leader tells Bild am Sonntag
  • Chancellor readies for final six-week election push after lull

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gained a political suitor as a pro-business party vies for her favor on the expectation she’ll win another term in a national election on Sept. 24.

Christian Lindner, head of the Free Democratic Party that’s campaigning to re-enter parliament after a four-year absence, told Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag he foresees a Merkel victory over Social Democrat Martin Schulz. In that case, the party that finishes third would be a gauge of the national mood, said Lindner, whose FDP was Merkel’s coalition partner between 2009 and 2013.

Christian Lindner

Photographer: Axel Schmidt/Getty Images

With Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led bloc ahead by as many as 18 percentage points, polls suggest a neck-and-neck race for third place between the pro-business FDP, the Greens and the anti-capitalist Left party. German elections traditionally produce coalition governments, and the Social Democrats are weary of being Merkel’s junior partner, a role they’ve played for eight of her 12 years in office, including the last four.

“The exciting contest is for third place,” Lindner said in an interview, according to Bild. “That will be the measure of the message that emerges from this Bundestag election.”

Campaigning for leadership of Europe’s biggest economy has been in a lull with the chancellor on an almost three-week summer vacation. Merkel, 63, plans to kick off the final six-week stretch with a rally in the western industrial city of Dortmund next Saturday, while Schulz, 61, is giving a nationally televised interview the following day. The two candidates go head-to-head in the campaign’s lone debate on Sept. 3.

Merkel Stable

A traditional kingmaker in German coalitions after World War II, the Free Democrats are seeking to re-enter the lower house of parliament, which elects the chancellor. While the Left and Greens are opposition parties, the FDP crashed out of the Bundestag four years ago after failing to impose its tax-cutting agenda on Merkel.

Lindner, 38, signaled that the FDP’s main campaign target will be the Greens, according to Bild.

Support for Merkel’s bloc was unchanged at 38 percent and the Social Democrats declined 1 percentage point to 23 percent in an Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag. The Left rose one point to 10 percent, while the Free Democrats, Greens and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party each polled 8 percent. No margin of error was given for the July 27-Aug. 2 poll of 2,543 people.

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