Free Democratic Party (Germany)

Infobox_German_Political_Party
party_name = Freie Demokratische Partei
party_
party_wikicolourid = FDP
leader = Guido Westerwelle
foundation = 11 December 1948
ideology = Liberalism
Conservative liberalism
Social liberalism
Market liberalism [ [http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,1564,1713767,00.html Deutsche Welle] ] ,
international = Liberal International
european = European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
europarl = Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
colours = blue/yellow
headquarters = Thomas-Dehler-Haus
Reinhardtstraße 14
10117 Berlin
website = [http://www.fdp.de/ www.fdp.de]
The Free Democratic Party ("Freie Demokratische Partei", FDP) is a liberal political party in Germany. The party's ideology combines beliefs in individual liberty, in a state or government "that is as small as possible and as large as necessary" ("so viel Staat wie nötig, so wenig Staat wie möglich!"). It promotes a market economy, with traditional features of the German social welfare system. The FDP is currently the third-largest party in the Bundestag. In foreign policy the FDP supports European integration and transatlantic partnership.

The party has generally distinguished itself from the CDU and the SPD by advocating more market-oriented policies. The party has also been associated with the label "Partei der Besserverdienenden" ("Party of the better-earning people"), which the party had coined in a draft manifesto for the 1994 federal elections. Political adversaries have often used this term to argue that the FDP opposes the interests of poorer people.

The FDP has traditionally been composed mainly of middle-class and upper-class Protestants who consider themselves to be independents and heirs to the European liberal tradition. The party is a relatively weak institutional party, gaining between 5.8 and 12.8% of the votes in federal elections. However, it has held the balance of power for most of the Federal Republic's existence. It was the junior partner in coalition governments with the Christian Democrats (CDU) from 1949 to 1956, from 1961 to 1966 and from 1982 to 1998, and with the Social Democrats (SPD) from 1969 to 1982, thereby participating in governments in 41 years in the first 50 years of the Federal Republic's existence.

History

The FDP was formed on 11 December 1948, by local liberal parties. These were founded in 1945 on the remnants of the center-right German People's Party (DVP) and the centre-left German Democratic Party (DDP). The FDP's first Chairman, Theodor Heuss, was a former member of the DDP.

Throughout its history, the party's economic policies have shifted between social liberalism (in the European sense) and market liberalism. Since the 1980s the FDP has maintained a consistently free-market stance, by German standards. However, many of its policies acknowledge that certain aims cannot be reached by market mechanisms alone and would not be seen as free-market policies in, for example, the USA; so the FDP supports a minimum standard of welfare protections for all and strong anti-trust policies, for example.

In all federal election campaigns since the 1980s, the party has sided with the CDU and CSU, the main center-right parties in Germany. An exception to this rule was the 2002 campaign, where "equidistance" to CDU and SPD was claimed. Following German reunification in 1990, the FDP merged with the Association of Free Democrats, a grouping of liberals from East Germany. During the 1990s, the FDP won between 6.2 and 11 percent of the vote in Bundestag elections. Between 1982 and 1998, it served as 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-CSU supporters who supported strong economic reforms. However, because the CDU did less well than predicted, the FDP and the CDU were unable to form a coalition government (a contrast to the situation after the 2002 federal election where a coalition between the two parties was impossible primarily because of the weak results of the FDP).

Disagreements over social issues (the FDP taking a liberal stance, the CDU more conservative) also complicated a coalition agreement. The party was considered as a potential member of various possible political coalitions, following the election. One possibility was a partnership between the FDP, the Social Democrats and Greens (called a "Traffic light coalition"), but most Free Democrats felt that the Social Democrats were not bold enough on economic reform. Also considered was a CDU-FDP-Green coalition (called a "Jamaica coalition" because of the party colours, the same as those of the Jamaican flag), but the Greens quickly ruled out participation in any coalition with the CDU-CSU (Joschka Fischer in particular dismissed the possibility out of hand). Instead, the CDU formed a grand coalition with the SPD, and the FDP entered the opposition. FDP leader Guido Westerwelle became Leader of the Opposition on account of the Free Democrats' position as the largest non-government party in the Bundestag.

Leadership

Chairmen of the party since 1948:
*Theodor Heuss 1948-1949
*Franz Blücher 1949-1954
*Thomas Dehler 1954-1957
*Reinhold Maier 1957-1960
*Erich Mende 1960-1968
*Walter Scheel 1968-1974
*Hans-Dietrich Genscher 1974-1985
*Martin Bangemann 1985-1988
*Otto Graf Lambsdorff 1988-1993
*Klaus Kinkel 1993-1995
*Wolfgang Gerhardt 1995-2001
*Guido Westerwelle 2001-

ee also

*Liberalism in Germany
*Friedrich Naumann Foundation
*Young Liberals (Germany)
*Liberal Students Association

References

External links

* [http://www.fdp.de/ Official website]


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