Germany’s governing coalition may be increasingly on shaky ground after the astounding string of election losses of the Free Democrats (FDP), the smallest partner in the country’s three-party coalition. Now, there are voices within the FDP calling on federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner, who is also chairman of the party, to abandon the left-liberal coalition after the poor outcome in Bavaria and Hesse over the weekend.
After the results came in, FDP MP Frank Schäffler told Bild newspaper that the ruling “traffic light” government has a “millstone around our neck” that is dragging the FDP “further and further into the abyss.” He demanded that the coalition agreement between the FDP and the other two parties be renegotiated or scrapped. Thuringian state leader, FDP’s Thomas Kemmerich, called the Greens an “overreaching party” that could not be relied upon to build any kind of stable government.
Lindner himself issued a stark warning that “the traffic light as a whole has lost legitimacy. Nobody can be satisfied with the federal government’s approval ratings. Improvements are necessary.”
In addition, FDP Federal Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki also called for a “course correction” of the coalition in the federal government after the elections, while FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai appeared on the ARD state-run channel, where he stated, “We have to find solutions in the coalition on the economy and the mega-issue of migration.” To do this, he said the FDP will sit down with the other parties and analyze “what common understanding we have or whether we have one at all.” His comments revealed his doubts about whether such a “common understanding” can actually be found.
Even before the election, Djir-Sarai described the FDP’s Green coalition partner as a “security risk for the country” over the raging migration crisis encouraged by the ruling government. The harsh words were seen as potentially both a warning, but also an attempt by the FDP to gain voters back. Regardless, many within the FDP are wondering why the party continues to govern with the Greens if it presents a “security risk.”
Germans want a change of government
There have been ongoing disputes within the three-party governing coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the FDP since nearly the beginning, but those disputes have only sharpened as discontent grows. While all three parties suffered serious losses following regional elections in Bavaria and Hesse, which saw the Alternative for Germany (AfD) outperform, the FDP in particular suffered, failing to even reach the 5-percent minimum threshold to enter parliament in Bavaria and just making it with 5 percent in Hesse.
Nevertheless, the public’s souring mood toward the ruling government may be one of the few factors keeping FDP from abandoning its coalition partners, as any snap election could see the party removed entirely from government. As German media outlet NTV reports, “If the FDP were to let the traffic light collapse prematurely out of fear of its own collapse, the coalition parties’ chances of being re-elected would be extremely poor. According to current surveys, the CDU is a full 10 percentage points ahead of the SPD, and the AfD is now almost twice as strong as the Free Democrats. The internal stability of the FDP has become a survival factor for the traffic light.”
A poll released yesterday by Bild newspapers shows that Germans want new elections and to cast out the left-liberal government, with immigration named as the top motivating issue.
String of losses adds up for the FDP
Bavaria and Hesse are hardly the only debacles facing the FDP since it joined the coalition, as the 2022 election cycle saw the party experience one loss after another. Last year, the FDP did not score high enough to reach the state parliament in Saarland and was also kicked out of the ruling government following elections in both Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia. The party has also failed to secure entry in the state parliaments of Berlin and Lower Saxony.
Lindner has ruled out leaving the coalition, saying about the election over the weekend: “All three coalition partners have lost. And that’s why our job now is to critically examine our government work.” Nevertheless, there may come a breaking point for Lindner, especially as pressure grows on him within the ranks of his own party.
The issue of migration has become especially contentious. As Remix News has previously reported, the FDP has in principle no problem with mass immigration and is seeking to swamp the country with 500,000 migrants a year in order to provide business with cheap labor. However, the FDP has tried to stake out a stance on illegal immigration as the mood against immigration dramatically sours across Germany, a position increasingly complicated by the radical pro-migration sentiment of the FDP’s coalition partners.
Green Party leader Ricarda Lang has, for example, put forward a range of policies that will only encourage more illegal immigration, including sending more money to municipalities to pay for migrants and granting work permits to migrants from the first day they arrive in Germany. She also enthusiastically backs the EU’s new Migration Pact in order to relocate migrants across Europe, a policy vehemently rejected by Hungary and Poland.
The FDP’s status as the weak link in the ruling government is not going away anytime soon. Further losses could initiate a serious crisis for the party, and in turn, also the ruling federal government.