It’s better not to govern than to govern wrongly. These were the words used by the chairman of the Free Democrats, Christian Lindner, to announce that talks to form a so-called Jamaica coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Green Party were over.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Lindner was referring to the party’s comeback from the political wilderness. In 2013, after four years of being a junior party in a Merkel-led coalition, the FDP failed to clear the 5% hurdle needed for parliamentary representation. For the first time in 64 years, the party was out of the Bundestag.
That humiliation was blamed on public perceptions that the Free Democrats were political opportunists and lapdogs of Merkel’s conservatives — with no political principles of their own. When he took over as party chairman four years ago, Lindner vowed to erase that humiliation.
According to DW, the decision to pull the plug on the coalition this week is in a sense the culmination of a process that began on 22 September 2013. It’s also very much a decision that reflects the FDP chairman’s personal political outlook.
“I remember the pictures on TV of how the SPD and Greens broke out into cheers at their election parties when it was announced that the FDP was out of parliament,” Lindner wrote in 2013. “Whenever I had doubts about our efforts to come back, I thought of those images. I was determined that they wouldn’t be the last ones people would remember.”
In this year’s national election, the Free Democrats’ strategy was heavily focused on the party’s youthful, camera-friendly front man. The party’s election advertisements featured Linder fiddling with his mobile phone, rolling up his sleeves, promising improvements in digitalisation and education, and simply staring into the camera with a trendy three-day stubble.
The advertisements paid off, as Linder’s party captured 10.7% of the vote on September 24.
According to DW, however, it is difficult to see the Free Democrats dramatically improving upon their September results, if Germans have to go to the polls again.