Status: 04/23/2022 03:35 a.m
For the FDP, as the smallest governing party, the traffic light coalition is also about remaining visible. This has been achieved in the Corona policy. But the party congress should focus on other topics.
Corona is messing up the FDP’s party conference planning. Everything was actually already prepared for the meeting in Berlin this weekend. The first federal party conference in attendance for two years – with around 660 delegates. But now, of all times, party leader Christian Lindner has contracted Corona, just like many other top politicians before him. The provisional and designated FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai must now adjust the direction of the party conference. That something like this should happen, he says, is of course extremely regrettable. But: “The party conference will take place, we look forward to this party conference and Christian Lindner will be connected.”
ARD Capital Studio
ARD Capital Studio
The FDP and Corona: The smallest coalition partner in the traffic light with SPD and Greens takes credit for the fact that most of the pandemic measures expired at the end of March and that the country, apart from the mask requirement on buses and trains, returned to almost normality – against strong resistance Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, the SPD and the Greens.
The 30-year-old FDP member of the Bundestag Ria Schröder, formerly head of the Young Liberals, is convinced that many young people in particular thanked the FDP for this: “Because normal life is finally possible again, because the lecture halls are slowly opening again and because too the discotheques are open again.”
No compulsory vaccination
In the heated debate about compulsory vaccination, some of the harshest critics came from the FDP. For example, party Vice Wolfgang Kubicki, who early on rejected compulsory corona vaccination as an unconstitutional encroachment on personal liberties. Out of consideration for the FDP, Chancellor Olaf Scholz allowed a vote beyond factional pressure. In the end, there was no majority for compulsory vaccination of any kind.
Willing to compromise in other areas
Dealing with the pandemic is seen by some as proof that the FDP, as the smallest coalition partner, is driving the SPD and the Greens before it, so it has a disproportionately large influence on government policy. The party researcher Uwe Jun from the University of Trier thinks this interpretation is too simple:
You can certainly say that for the Corona policy. The FDP has largely prevailed here. But we see in many other areas that the FDP is oriented towards compromises, for example in climate protection policy, in social policy, but even in financial policy.
Finance Minister Lindner has to go into debt
Fiscal policy is the real core issue of the FDP. No softening of the debt brake, no tax increases – that was the party’s promise in the election campaign, which Finance Minister Lindner must now implement. But now he’s juggling billions of dollars in extra budgets for climate protection and the strengthening of the German armed forces. Because of the war in Ukraine, there will probably be further debts in an amount that has not yet been calculated.
Djir-Sarai, who is to be elected general secretary at the party congress, still wants to stick to the core of the brand, “stable finances”. From his point of view, it is particularly important in such a situation that solid state finances and solid economic policy are maintained. “Of course, the challenges facing the whole country are enormous. But in the end, solid finances are a tool to fight crises, so it’s still a goal.”
A good four months after the start of government, it is becoming apparent that the Ukraine war is throwing many plans upside down, and the new reality has partially undermined the finely balanced coalition agreement. And while the SPD is stable in the polls, and the Greens are once again experiencing a surge in the opinion polls, the FDP is slightly weakened both at federal level and in important states. From the point of view of the political scientist Jun, the party must now be concerned with showing its profile in the alliance with the unequal partners. He says:
In this constellation, the FDP sees itself as a bourgeois corrective. Whenever it becomes too ecological or socio-political for her, she uses her veto. Then the coalition partners must also see that they are responding to the FDP.
It is crucial for the FDP that the party remains visible. Because the Greens and SPD have much more programmatic intersections, Jun continues.
The liberals are also concerned with occupying more symbolic topics: no to the speed limit, support for plug-in hybrids, fuel discounts. Twitter shitstorms from SPD or Greens supporters are probably taken into account.
Pressure on arms deliveries
The FDP will also try to show its profile at the party conference at the weekend – for example when it comes to the question of whether the exit dates for nuclear and coal have to be checked again in view of the new situation.
And on the subject of arms deliveries to Ukraine. The FDP leadership increases the pressure. At the party congress there should be a motion for a resolution by the federal executive board. The design suits that ARD Capital Studio in front. It says that supporting Ukraine against the Russian attack “also includes the delivery of heavy weapons and the rapid provision of armaments by German industry, for which Germany, as announced, will assume the financing”.
For some time now, the FDP has been very clear on the question of arms deliveries, in contrast to its coalition partner SPD. When asked whether there was a procrastinator in the Chancellery, FDP defense expert Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann answered last week in Deutschlandfunk with “yes”.
And the designated FDP General Secretary Djir-Sarai stressed in the run-up to the party congress that he was one of those who called for support for Ukraine very early on. “At a time when others were of the opinion that this war was not part of the coalition agreement.” The FDP has also made it clear in the past few days that support must continue – also when it comes to heavy weapons. “And I’m convinced that time is of the essence here,” said Djir-Sarai. “Ukraine should get any help it needs.”
Constant balancing act
But in the same application, the clear demands are followed by restrictions. Decisions should only be made in harmony with the allies. Germany must not “become a war party”. And the arms deliveries should not affect “our own defense readiness.”
That sounds very similar to the concerns in the SPD. Chancellor Scholz also pointed out that the Bundeswehr was reaching its limits when it came to material that could be delivered quickly to Ukraine.
It should be interesting to see whether and how party leader Lindner will comment on the issue of the delivery of heavy weapons at the party congress. As chairman and minister, he must – not only in Ukraine politics – manage the balancing act between liberal profile and coalition peace. It’s about “making the FDP recognizable as part of a government and showing that the FDP is an independent force in the political center,” Lindner formulates the claim. He should also want to send this message at the party conference – even if it is only switched on due to Corona.