Free Democratic Party (Germany)
|General Secretary||Nicola Beer|
|Founded||12 December 1948|
|Youth wing||Young Liberals|
|Foundation||Friedrich Naumann Foundation|
|Membership (December 2015)||54,000|
|Political position||Centre to Centre-right|
|European affiliation||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe|
|International affiliation||Liberal International|
|European Parliament group||Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe|
|Colors||Yellow and blue|
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94 / 1,857
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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 was a junior coalition partner to either the CDU/CSU (1949–56, 1961–66, 1982–98, and 2009–13) or the Social Democratic Party of Germany (1969–82). However, in the 2013 federal election the FDP failed to win any directly elected seats in the Bundestag, and came up short of the 5 percent threshold to qualify for list representation. The FDP was therefore left without representation in the Bundestag for the first time in its history.
The FDP strongly supports human rights, civil liberties, and internationalism. The party is traditionally considered centre-right, but it has shifted to the centre according to polls in recent years. 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 (ALDE).
Soon after World War II, the Soviet Union forced the creation of political parties. In July 1945 William Kulice and Eugen Schiffer called for the establishment of a pan-German Party, whose constitution the Allies hesitantly approved only in the Soviet occupation zone as the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany. In September 1945, citizens in Hamburg established the Party of Free Democrats (PFD) as a bourgeois Left Party and the first Liberal Party in the Western zones. In the first state elections in Hamburg in October 1946 the party won 18.2 percent of the vote. The FDP secured between 7.8 and 29.9 percent of the 1946 vote in Greater Berlin (East) and Saxony, the only states in Soviet-occupied territories that held free parliamentary elections. However, it had to support the policies of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and join the National Front of the GDR as a "bloc party".Following the FDP's success, liberal parties were founded across the states. The FDP won Hesse's 1950 state election with 31.8 percent, the best result in its history, through appealing to East Germans displaced by the war by including them on their ticket.
Founding of the party
The Democratic Party of Germany (DPD) was established in Rothenburg ob der Tauber on 17 March 1947 as a pan-German Party. Its leaders were Theodor Heuss and Wilhelm Külz. However, the project failed as a result of disputes over Külz's political direction.
The Free Democratic Party was established on 11–12 December 1948 in Heppenheim, in Hesse, as an association of all 13 regional liberal party organizations in the three Western zones of occupation. The proposed name, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was rejected by the delegates, who voted 64 to 25 in favour of the name Free Democratic Party (FDP).
The party's first chairman was Theodor Heuss; his deputy was Franz Blücher. The place for the party's foundation was chosen deliberately: it was at the Heppenheim Assembly that the moderate liberals had met in October 1847 before the March Revolution. Some regard the "Heppenheim Assembly", which was held at the Halber Mond (Half Moon) Hotel on 10 October 1847, as a meeting of leading liberals that was the beginning of the German Revolution of 1848-49.
Up to the 1950s, several of the FDP's regional organizations were to the right of the CDU/CSU, which initially had ideas of some sort of Christian socialism, and even former office-holders of the Third Reich were courted with national, patriotic values.
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. 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).
1949–69: The reconstruction of Germany
In the first elections to the Bundestag on 14 August 1949, the FDP won a vote share of 11.9 percent (with 12 direct mandates, particularly in Baden-Württemberg and Hesse), and thus obtained 52 of 402 seats. In September of the same year the FDP chairman Theodor Heuss was elected the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany. In his 1954 re-election, he received the best election result to date of a President with 871 of 1018 votes (85.6 percent) of the Federal Assembly. Adenauer was also elected on the proposal of the new German President with an extremely narrow majority as the first Chancellor. The FDP participated with the CDU/CSU and the DP in Adenauer's coalition cabinet: they had three ministers: Franz Blücher (Vice-Chancellor), Thomas Dehler (Justice) and Eberhard Wildermuth (housing).
On the most important economic, social and German national issues, the FDP agreed with their coalition partners, the CDU/CSU. However, the FDP recommended to the bourgeois voters a secular party that refused the religious schools and the accused the opposition parties of clericalization. The FDP said they were known also as a consistent representative of the market economy, while the CDU was then dominated nominally from the Ahlen Programme, which allowed a Third Way between capitalism and socialism. Ludwig Erhard, the "father" of the social market economy, had his followers in the early years of the Federal Republic in the Union rather than in the FDP.
The FDP voted in parliament at the end of 1950 against the CDU- and SPD- introduced de-nazification process. At their party conference in Munich in 1951 they demanded the release of all "so-called war criminals" and welcomed the establishment of the "Association of German soldiers" of former Wehrmacht and SS members, to advance the integration of the nationalist forces in democracy. The 1953 Naumann-Affair, named after Werner Naumann, identifies old Nazis trying to infiltrate the party, which had many right-wing and nationalist members in Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony. After the British occupation authorities had arrested seven prominent members of the Naumann circle, the FDP federal board installed a commission of inquiry, chaired by Thomas Dehler, which particularly sharply criticized the situation in the North Rhine-Westphalian FDP. In the following years, the right wing lost power, and the extreme right increasingly sought areas of activity outside the FDP. In the 1953 federal election the FDP received 9.5 percent of the party votes, 10.8 percent of the primary vote (with 14 direct mandates, particularly in Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Hesse, Württemberg and Bavaria) and 48 of 487 seats.
In the second term of the Bundestag, the South German Liberal democrats gained influence in the party. Thomas Dehler, a representative of a more left-liberal course took over as party and parliamentary leader. The former Minister of Justice Dehler, who in 1933 suffered persecution by the Nazis, was known for his rhetorical focus. Generally the various regional associations were independent and translated so different from country to country accents in liberal politics. After the FDP had left in early 1956, the coalition with the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia and made with SPD and center a new state government, were a total of 16 members of parliament, including the four federal ministers from the FDP and founded the short-lived Free People's Party, which then up was involved to the end of the legislature instead of FDP in the Federal Government. The FDP first took it to the opposition.
Only one of the smaller post-war parties, the FDP survived despite many problems. In 1957 federal elections they still reached 7.7 percent of the vote to 1990 and their last direct mandate with which they had held 41 of 497 seats in the Bundestag. However, they still remained in opposition, because the Union won an absolute majority. In the following example, the FDP sat for a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe.
Even before the election Dehler was assigned as party chairman. At the federal party in Berlin at the end January 1957 relieved him Reinhold Maier. Dehler's role as Group Chairman took over after the election of the national set very Erich Mende. Mende was also chairman of the party.
In the 1961 federal elections, it achieved 12.8 percent nationwide, the best result until then, and the FDP entered a coalition with the CDU again. Although it was committed before the election to continuing to sit in any case in a government together with Adenauer, Chancellor Adenauer was again, however, to withdraw under the proviso, after two years. These events led to the FDP being nicknamed the Umfallerpartei ("pushover party").
In the Spiegel Affair, the FDP withdrew their ministers from the federal government. Although the coalition was renewed again under Adenauer in 1962, the FDP withdrew again on the condition in October 1963. This occurred even under the new Chancellor, Ludwig Erhard. This was for Erich Mende turn the occasion to go into the cabinet: he took the rather unimportant Federal Ministry for All-German Affairs.
In the 1965 federal elections the FDP gained 9.5 percent. The coalition with the CDU in 1966 broke on the subject of tax increases and it was followed by a grand coalition between the CDU and the SPD. The opposition also pioneered a course change to: The former foreign policy and the attitude to the eastern territories were discussed. The new chairman elected delegates in 1968 Walter Scheel, a European-oriented liberals, although it came from the national liberal camp, but with Willi Weyer and Hans-Dietrich Genscher led the new center of the party. This center strove to make the FDP coalition support both major parties. Here, the Liberals approached to by their reorientation in East Germany and politics especially of the SPD.
1969–82: Social changes and crises
On 21 October 1969 began the period after the election of a Social Liberal coalition with the SPD and the German Chancellor Willy Brandt. Walter Scheel was he who initiated the foreign policy reversal. Despite a very small majority he and Willy Brandt sat by the controversial New Ostpolitik. This policy was within the FDP quite controversial, especially since the entry into the Federal Government defeats in state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Saarland on 14 June 1970 followed. In Hanover and Saarbrücken, the party left the parliament.
After the federal party congress in Bonn, just a week later supported the policy of the party leadership and Scheel had confirmed in office, founded by Siegfried party rights Zoglmann 11 July 1970 a "non-partisan" organization called the National-Liberal action on the Hohensyburgstraße - to fall with the goal of ending the left-liberal course of the party and Scheel. However, this was not. Zoglmann supported in October 1970 a disapproval resolution of opposition to Treasury Secretary Alexander Möller, Erich Mende, Heinz Starke, and did the same. A little later all three declared their withdrawal from the FDP; Mende and Strong joined the CDU in, Zoglmann later founded the German Union, which does not make it past the status of a splinter party.
The foreign policy and the socio-political changes were made in 1971 by the Freiburg theses, which were as Rowohlt Paperback sold more than 100,000 times, on a theoretical basis, the FDP is committed to "social liberalism" and social reforms. Walter Scheel was first foreign minister and vice chancellor, 1974, he was then second-liberal President and paving the way for inner-party the previous interior minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher free.
From 1969 to 1974 supported the FDP Chancellor Willy Brandt, then she ruled at the Helmut Schmidt page. Already at the end of the 70s did not seem to be sufficient for a coalition the similarities between FDP and SPD, but the CDU / CSU chancellor candidate of Franz Josef Strauss in 1980 left the two parties go again together in the federal election. The FDP, however, saw more and more the differences to the SPD, especially in economic policy. The position on the question of NATO Double-Track Decision Chancellor Schmidt's own SPD had not behind. Also contradictions within the FDP were always greater
1982–98: joined Kohl government, with economic transition and reunification
On 1 October 1982, FDP elected together with the CDU / CSU parliamentary group of the CDU party chairman Helmut Kohl as the new Chancellor (→ turn (West Germany)). The coalition change had severe internal conflicts result, the FDP then lost about 20 percent of its 86,500 members, as reflected in the general election in 1983 reflected (drop from 10.6 percent to 7.0 percent). The members went mostly to the SPD, the Greens and newly formed splinter parties, such as the left-liberal party Liberal Democrats (LD) across. Under the exiting members was also the former FDP General Secretary and later EU Commissioner Günter Verheugen. At the party convention in November 1982, the Schleswig-Holstein state chairman Uwe Ronneburger challenged Hans-Dietrich Genscher as party chairman. Ronneburger received 186 of the votes - about 40 percent - and was just narrowly defeated by Genscher.
Young FDP members who did not agree with the politics of the FDP youth organization Young Democrats, had founded in 1980 the Young Liberals (JuLis). For a time there were two youth organizations side by side until the JuLis penetrated due to the turn and the new official youth organization of the FDP were. The Young Democrats split from the FDP and were left a party independent youth organization.
At the time of reunification, the FDP's objective was a special economic zone in the former East Germany, but could not prevail against the CDU / CSU, as this would prevent any loss of votes in the five new federal states in the general election in 1990.
In all federal election campaigns since the 1980s, the party sided with the CDU and CSU, the main conservative parties in Germany. 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 political upheavals of 1989/1990 originated in the GDR new liberal parties like the FDP East Germany or the German Forum Party. They formed the Liberal Democratic Party, who had previously acted as a block party on the side of the SED and with Manfred Gerlach also the last Council of State of the GDR presented, the Alliance of Free Democrats, (BFD). Within the FDP came in the following years to considerable internal discussions about dealing with the former block party. Even before the reunification of Germany united on a joint congress in Hanover, West German FDP with the parties to the BFD and the former block party NDPD to the first all-German party. Both party factions brought the FDP a great, albeit short-lived, increase in membership. In the first all-German Bundestag elections, the CDU/CSU/FDP center-right coalition was confirmed, the FDP received 11.0 percent of the valid votes (79 seats) and won (in Halle (Saale)) the first direct mandate since 1957.
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.
In 1998, the CDU/CSU - FDP coalition lost the federal election, which ended the FDP's nearly 30-year reign in government coalition. In its 2002 campaign the FDP made an exception to its party policy of siding with the CDU/CSU when it adopted equidistance to the CDU and SPD. From 1998 until 2009 the FDP remained in the opposition until it became part of a new center-right coalition government.
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 percentage points 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 collapsed. The party’s policy pledges were put on hold by Merkel as the recession of 2009 unfolded and with the onset of the European debt crisis in 2010. 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 both Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as losing 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, however, 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 75% of the support they had had in the previous election.
In March 2012, the FDP 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 in the previous state election. This was attributed to the local leadership of Christian Lindner.
2013 federal election
In the federal elections on 22 September 2013 the FDP came up just short of the 5% threshold. It failed to win any directly elected seats either; it has won directly elected seats at only one election since 1953, and has not won any directly elected seats since 1990. As a result, the FDP is out of the Bundestag for the first time since 1949.
2014 European election
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".
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 changes to social welfare and health care systems with laws that would require every employed citizen to invest in a private social security account. The party supports a bracket income tax system, as opposed to the current 'linear' system, and, in the long term, a flat tax. The FDP aims for the introduction of a citizen's dividend, which collects all the tax-financed social welfare and social security funds of the state.
The FDP supports gay rights; former party leader Guido Westerwelle was 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.
The FDP describes itself as a pro-European party, although the minority national-liberal faction is 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 Parliament (Bundestag)
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.
|Election year|| # of party list
| % of party list
|# of overall seats won||+/-||Government|
79 / 662
47 / 672
43 / 669
47 / 603
61 / 614
93 / 622
0 / 631
|Election year|| # of
| % of
| # of
overall seats won
4 / 81
0 / 81
4 / 81
0 / 99
0 / 99
7 / 99
12 / 99
3 / 96
|State Parliament||Election year|| # of
| % of
| # of|
overall seats won
|Baden-Württemberg||2016||445,430||8.3 (#5)|| |
12 / 138
|Bavaria||2013||389,584||3.3 (#5)|| |
0 / 187
|Berlin||2016||109,431||6.7 (#6)|| |
12 / 149
|Brandenburg||2014||14,389||1.5 (#7)|| |
0 / 88
|Bremen||2015||76,754||6.5 (#5)|| |
6 / 83
|Hamburg||2015||262,157||7.4 (#5)|| |
9 / 121
|Hesse||2013||157,354||5.0 (#5)|| |
6 / 110
|Lower Saxony||2013||354,971||9.9 (#4)|| |
14 / 137
|Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||2016||24,475||3.0 (#6)|| |
0 / 71
|North Rhine-Westphalia||2012||669,971||8.6 (#4)|| |
22 / 237
|Rhineland-Palatinate||2016||132,262||6.2 (#4)|| |
7 / 101
|Saarland||2012||5,871||1.2 (#7)|| |
0 / 51
|Saxony||2014||61,847||3.8 (#7)|| |
0 / 126
|Saxony-Anhalt||2016||54,525||4.9 (#6)|| |
0 / 105
|Schleswig-Holstein||2012||108,902||8.2 (#4)|| |
6 / 69
|Thuringia||2014||23,352||2.5 (#7)|| |
0 / 91
|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||7 December 2013|
|14||Christian Lindner||7 December 2013||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||22 October 2013|
|No seats in the Bundestag||22 October 2013|
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