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The Free Democratic Party (Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP) is a liberal political party in Germanymarker. It is the successor to the former liberal parties existing before World War 2, the German People's Party, the German Democratic Party, and the National Liberal Party. Since its establishment in 1948, the party has been the third largest party in Germany, having gained between 5.8% and 14.6% of the votes in federal elections. It was the junior partner in coalition governments with the Christian Democratic Union from 1949 to 1956, from 1961 to 1966, from 1982 to 1998 and again since November 28, 2009. It had also been the junior partner in the governing coalition with the Social Democratic Party from 1969 to 1982.

Until the 1980s, the party's stance focused on social liberalism. Therafter, the party has been the most pro-business party in Germany. The party adheres to the national-liberal tradition in Germany. It is a member of the Liberal International.

Party platform

The party's political guidelines uphold the principles of freedom and individual responsibility under a government "as extensive as necessary, and as limited as possible" (German: so viel Staat wie nötig, so wenig Staat wie möglich). The FDP's policies are marked by skepticism toward public intervention, both by socialist as well as by socially conservative policies.

Among the parties represented in the Bundestagmarker, the lower house of the German parliament, the FDP has the most economically liberal stance.

In economic policy, an integral goal is job creation by giving incentives to people to make investments. This should be achieved by curtailing red tape, privatizations, deregulation, curtailing public subsidies, and a reform of collective bargaining laws. Public debt should also be reduced by those initiatives. In tax policy, the FDP wants to simplify the tax code. Through tax cuts the purchasing power of the people should be raised, which would revive the economy. In social welfare policy, the FDP aims at implementing one type of a citizen's dividend system, in which all tax-funded social security funds would be combined. The FDP supports Social insurances that would be complemented with capital-covered systems. In energy policy, the FDP calls for a diverse combination of the use of nuclear power, coal power, petroleum power, natural gas power and renewable energy.


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 Republicmarker. The FDP's first Chairman, Theodor Heuss, was formerly a member of the DDP and after the war of the DVP.

Throughout its history, the party'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.

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 Germanymarker. 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/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 Democrats (SPD) and 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 September 27, 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 a "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-Holsteinmarker and gaining enough votes in left leaning Brandenburgmarker to clear the 5% hurdle to enter that state's parliament.


Chairmen of the party since 1948:

Sister parties

International counterparts include the Liberal Democrats of the United Kingdom, Reform Party in Estonia, Yabloko in Russia and the Democratic Alliance in South Africa.

See also


  1. The Free Democrats: Kingmakers in waiting? Deutsche Welle 25 Aug 2009
  2. Blue Greens The New Republic 8 July 2002
  3. SPIEGEL Interview With FDP Leader Westerwelle Der Spiegel 18 Aug 2009
  4. These nine regionally organised liberal parties were the Bremian Democratic People's Party (BDV) in the Free Hanseatic City 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 . 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
  5. Merkel to head new center-right government Deutsche Welle 27 Sept 2009.

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