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Merkel's FDP Ally Eyes Poll Comeback, Doubts Persist

23 Apr 2012

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German Chancellor, Angela Merkel

Poll figures may be low and forecasts gloomy, but Martina Reuter felt certain things were looking up for her party - Germany's Free Democrats (FDP), the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition, reports Reuters.

"At the moment there is a real mood of change ... There is a return to the old, fundamental values," the 50-year-old party member told Reuters at a weekend FDP congress in Karlsruhe, western Germany.

Her comments were in tune with the atmosphere of determined bonhomie among the hundreds of delegates at the gathering.

But they clashed with the latest data - an opinion poll published on Sunday confirmed other forecasts that the FDP would fail to reach the 5 percent threshold needed to enter parliament if a national election scheduled for 2013 were held today.

It is far from certain the pro-business party, which has spent 44 of the last 64 years in government, will muster enough votes to stay in two regional assemblies in May elections.

The FDP's woes are also a headache for Merkel because they could distract her coalition from its main task of tackling the euro zone crisis. Merkel will also need a new coalition partner if the FDP is ejected from the Bundestag lower house next year.

At the conference, the party's mostly young leaders circulated, cracking jokes, slapping backs and greeting supporters by their first names and using the familiar pronoun 'du'.

"It's certainly not an easy situation right now, but we've had periods before when we've fallen out of nearly all state parliaments," said party member Thomas Seidenberg, 51.

Leaders took their turns at the podium calling for a return to the FDP's core liberal values and launching blistering attacks on other parties.

The party also voted to endorse a 'freedom theses' programme outlining its philosophy.

But the displays of optimism did not impress all.

"Given our polling figures, it would have been good to look at specific policies," said Christian Mandery, 24, a computer sciences student. "We didn't need a new programme, which by nature is abstract. The voters want specific answers."

Anyone looking for a clear set of those specific policies may have been disappointed by the conference speeches.

FDP leader Philipp Roesler, 39, told the conference its focus should be on economic growth as he urged a party often accused in Germany of only caring about the rich to remain true to its liberal values and heritage.

Analysts have said he may be ousted from a post he has held for less than a year if the party fares badly in the upcoming polls in Schleswig-Holstein and in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state, in May.

Tags: Politics, World, Merkel, FDP

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