Free Democratic Party (Germany)
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|Free Democratic Party
Freie Demokratische Partei
|Founded||11 December 1948|
|Youth wing||Young Liberals|
|Foundation||Friedrich Naumann Foundation|
|International affiliation||Liberal International|
|European affiliation||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party|
|European Parliament group||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe|
|Colours||Yellow and blue|
The Free Democratic Party (German: Freie Demokratische Partei), abbreviated to FDP, is a classical liberal political party in Germany. The FDP is led by Philipp Rösler and currently serves as the junior coalition partner to the Union (Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union) in the German federal government. The FDP's parliamentary group has 93 members and is currently the third largest in the Bundestag.
The FDP was founded in 1948 by members of the former liberal political parties existing in Germany before World War II, the German Democratic Party and the German People's Party. For most of the Federal Republic's history, it has held the balance of power in the Bundestag. It has been in federal government longer than any other party, as the junior coalition partner to either the CDU/CSU (1949–56, 1961–66, 1982–98, and since 2009) or the Social Democratic Party (1969–82).
The FDP, which strongly supports human rights, civil liberties, and internationalism, has shifted from the centre to the centre-right over time. Since the 1980s, the party has firmly pushed economic liberalism, and has aligned itself closely to the promotion of free markets and privatisation. It is a member of the Liberal International and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, and is the joint-largest member of the ALDE Group group in the European Parliament.
The FDP was founded on 11 December 1948 through the merger of nine regional liberal parties formed in 1945 from the remnants of the pre-1933 German People's Party (DVP) and the German Democratic Party (DDP), which had been active in the Weimar Republic.[Note 1] The FDP's first Chairman, Theodor Heuss, was formerly a member of the DDP and after the war of the Democratic People's Party (DVP).
In all federal election campaigns since the 1980s, the party sided with the CDU and CSU, the main conservative parties in Germany. An exception to the party policy was made in the 2002 campaign, in which it adopted a position of "equidistance" to the CDU and SPD. Following German reunification in 1990, the FDP merged with the Association of Free Democrats, a grouping of liberals from East Germany and the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany. During the 1990s, the FDP won between 6.2 and 11 percent of the vote in Bundestag elections. It last participated in the federal government by representing the junior partner in the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the CDU.
2005 federal election 
In the 2005 general election the party won 9.8 percent of the vote and 61 federal deputies, an unpredicted improvement from prior opinion polls. It is believed that this was partly due to tactical voting by CDU and Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) alliance supporters who hoped for stronger market-oriented economic reforms than the CDU/CSU alliance called for. However, because the CDU did worse than predicted, the FDP and the CDU/CSU alliance were unable to form a coalition government. At other times, for example after the 2002 federal election, a coalition between the FDP and CDU/CSU was impossible primarily because of the weak results of the FDP.
The CDU/CSU parties had achieved the 3rd worst performance in German postwar history with only 35.2 percent of the votes. Therefore, the FDP wasn't able to form a coalition with its preferred partners, the CDU/CSU parties. As a result, the party was considered as a potential member of two other political coalitions, following the election. One possibility was a partnership between the FDP, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the Alliance 90/The Greens, known as a "traffic light coalition", named after the colors of the three parties. This coalition was ruled out, because the FDP considered the Social Democrats and the Greens insufficiently committed to market-oriented economic reform. The other possibility was a CDU-FDP-Green coalition, known as a "Jamaica coalition" because of the colours of the three parties. This coalition wasn't concluded either, since the Greens ruled out participation in any coalition with the CDU/CSU. Instead, the CDU formed a Grand coalition with the SPD, and the FDP entered the opposition. FDP leader Guido Westerwelle became the unofficial leader of the opposition by virtue of the FDP's position as the largest opposition party in the Bundestag.
2009 federal election 
In the national vote on 27 September 2009 the FDP increased its share of the vote by 4.8% to 14.6%, an all-time record so far. This percentage was enough to offset a decline in the CDU/CSU's vote compared to 2005, to create a CDU-FDP governing coalition in the Bundestag with a 53% majority of seats. On election night party leader Westerwelle said his party would work to ensure that civil liberties were respected and that Germany got an "equitable tax system and better education opportunities."
The party also made gains in the two state elections held at the same time, acquiring sufficient seats for a CDU-FDP coalition in the northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein and gaining enough votes in left leaning Brandenburg to clear the 5% hurdle to enter that state's parliament.
However, after reaching its best ever election result in 2009, the FDP's support has since collapsed. By the end of 2010, the party's support had dropped to as low as 5%. The FDP retained their seats in the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, which was held six months after the federal election, but out of the seven state elections that have been held since 2009, the FDP have lost all their seats in five of them due to failing to cross the 5% threshold.
Westerwelle stepped down as party leader in 2011 after the party was wiped out in Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland-Palatinate and lost half its seats in Baden-Württemberg. He was replaced on 13 May 2011 by Philipp Rösler. The change in leadership failed to revive the FDP's fortunes and in the next series of state elections the party lost all its seats in Bremen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Berlin. In Berlin the party lost nearly 3/4 of the support they had in the previous election. In March 2012, they also lost all their seats in Saarland. However, this was averted in the Schleswig-Holstein state elections, when they achieved 8% of the vote, which was a severe loss of seats but still over the 5% threshold. In the snap elections in North Rhine-Westphalia a week later, the FDP not only crossed the threshold, but also increased its share of the votes to 2 percentage points higher than the previous state election. This was attributed to the local leadership of Christian Lindner.
The FDP adheres to a classical liberal ideology, advocating liberalism in both the economic sphere and social sphere. The current guidelines of the FDP are enshrined in the principles of Wiesbaden. A key objective of the FDP is the "strengthening of freedom and individual responsibility".
Economic policy 
The FDP espouses the most economic liberal ideas of the parties represented in the German federal parliament. The main goal is the creation of jobs by creating incentives for private investments. This shall be achieved, among other measures, through reduced bureaucracy, privatisation, deregulation, through removal of subsidies, and reform of collective bargaining. The national debt shall be reduced. The party supports globalisation.
In the tax policy a simple tax code is called for. The party supports a bracket income tax system, as opposed to the current 'linear' system, and, in the long-term a flat tax. Through tax cuts, the purchasing power of employees will be increased and the economy will be stimulated.
Environment and energy policy 
In energy policy, the FDP calls for a combination of nuclear, coal, oil and gas and renewable energy for electricity production. The FDP opposes phasing out of nuclear power.Regarding the EEG (or Feed-in tariff) the website of the FDP states that its policy is for more frequent review of the rates at which renewable generators are paid, in order to prevent what it describes as overpayment (Überförderungen). The FDP are one of the coalition partners proposing the severe cuts to EEG tariff payment rates in March 2012.
Social policy 
The FDP aims for the introduction of a citizen's dividend (Bürgergeld), which collects all the tax-financed social welfare and social security funds of the state. The social security funds should be supplemented through privately funded schemes.
The common view in the party is a critical attitude towards the state and to conservative and egalitarian social policies. Under the slogan "As much government as necessary, as little government as possible," the FDP tries to limit the state involvement in the life of the individual as far as possible. The unifying stance for them is the idea of "creating and maintaining the freedom of individuals". Thus the party supported nearly all social liberalizations that have been implemented in the federal republic.
Throughout its history, the FDP's policies have shifted between emphasis on social liberalism and economic liberalism. Since the 1980s, the FDP has maintained a consistent pro-business stance. The FDP supports strong competition laws and a minimum standard of welfare protection for every citizen. In addition, the FDP endorses to complement the social welfare and health care systems with laws that would require every employed citizen to invest in a private social security account.
The FDP supports gay rights; former party leader Guido Westerwelle is openly gay. Yet the party's group in parliament voted against an oppositional motion for gay marriage, in order not to threaten the coalition with the Christian democrats.
Domestic policy 
The FDP is opposed to wiretapping, although the FDP originally supported 'Großer Lauschangriff'. It also rejects data retention in the phone and internet. The FDP is opposed to a tightening of the penal code, and instead supports for the recruitment of more police officers, judges, and prosecutors to improve security and speed up trials. In addition, improved rehabilitation is called for, especially for young offenders.
One objective of the FDP is the promotion of pre-school education. There shall be mandatory language tests at the age of four to detect linguistic weaknesses of children with immigrant backgrounds and train them in time for school. Half-day childcare shall be free, in accordance with the legal right to a kindergarten place, from the third year of life and school enrolment. Language teaching shall constitute an integral part of the curriculum from grade one onwards.
The FDP calls for the establishment of full-day schools and the high school diploma after twelve years of schooling. In addition, the Liberals are opposed to all-day schools, because they believe that those schools are not performance-oriented enough and individual student support is not sufficiently guaranteed. The FDP supports tuition fees to support the funding of universities. It also calls for the abolition of laws and regulations to improve research conditions. The FDP opposed the 1996 spelling reform; as a result, their election manifestos are written in the previously conventional spelling.
Foreign policy 
The FDP describes itself as the pro-European party, although the minority national liberal faction is soft eurosceptic. The FDP wants a politically integrated EU with a Common Foreign and Security Policy, but supported a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon. The FDP advocates the accession of Turkey to the EU, although this would require Turkey to fulfil all criteria.
Federal election results 
Below are charts of the results that the Free Democratic Party has secured in each election to the federal Bundestag. Timelines showing the number of seats and percentage of party list votes won are on the right.
Party chairmen 
|2||Franz Blücher||1949||7 March 1954|
|3||Thomas Dehler||7 March 1954||24 January 1957|
|4||Reinhold Maier||24 January 1957||29 January 1960|
|5||Erich Mende||29 January 1960||29 January 1968|
|6||Walter Scheel||29 January 1968||1 October 1974|
|7||Hans-Dietrich Genscher||1 October 1974||23 February 1985|
|8||Martin Bangemann||23 February 1985||9 October 1988|
|9||Otto Graf Lambsdorff||9 October 1988||11 June 1993|
|10||Klaus Kinkel||11 June 1993||10 June 1995|
|11||Wolfgang Gerhardt||10 June 1995||4 May 2001|
|12||Guido Westerwelle||4 May 2001||13 May 2011|
|13||Philipp Rösler||13 May 2011||Incumbent|
Leaders in the Bundestag 
|1||Theodor Heuss||1949||12 September 1949|
|2||Hermann Schäfer||12 September 1949||10 January 1951|
|3||August-Martin Euler||10 January 1951||6 May 1952|
|4||Hermann Schäfer||6 May 1952||20 October 1953|
|5||Thomas Dehler||20 October 1953||8 January 1957|
|6||Max Becker||8 January 1957||November 1957|
|7||Erich Mende||November 1957||22 October 1963|
|8||Knut von Kühlmann-Stumm||22 October 1963||23 January 1968|
|9||Wolfgang Mischnick||23 January 1968||15 January 1991|
|10||Hermann Otto Solms||15 January 1991||26 October 1998|
|11||Wolfgang Gerhardt||5 October 1998||30 April 2006|
|12||Guido Westerwelle||30 April 2006||25 October 2009|
|13||Birgit Homburger||25 October 2009||10 May 2011|
|14||Rainer Brüderle||10 May 2011||Incumbent|
See also 
- Friedrich Naumann Foundation
- Liberalism in Germany
- Liberal Students Association
- List of political parties in Germany
- Philipp Rösler
- Politics of Germany
- These nine regionally organised liberal parties were the Bremian Democratic People's Party (BDV) in the state of Bremen, the Democratic Party of Southern and Middle Baden (DemP) in the State of South Baden, the Democratic Party (DP) in the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, the Democratic People's Party of Northern Württemberg-Northern Baden (DVP) in the State of Württemberg-Baden, the Democratic People's Party of Southern Württemberg-Hohenzollern (DVP) in the State of Württemberg-Hohenzollern, the united Free Democratic Party (F.D.P.) of the British zone of occupation, the Free Democratic Party (F.D.P.) in the Free State of Bavaria, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the State of Hesse, and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Berlin (West). Cf. Almut Leh and Alexander von Plato, Ein unglaublicher Frühling: erfahrene Geschichte im Nachkriegsdeutschland 1945 - 1948, Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung (ed.), Bonn: Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, 1997, p. 77. ISBN 3-89331-298-6
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