New FDP General Secretary Djir-Sarai: Man with a special role

Status: 04/24/2022 10:05 a.m

Bijan Djir-Sarai was elected FDP General Secretary with a healthy leap of faith. The Iranian-born Rhinelander has to manage the balancing act between traffic lights and party. What does he stand for? What are his goals?

By Martin Polansky, ARD Capital Studio

Bijan Djir-Sarai stands in front of the delegates at the FDP party conference in Berlin. He has been the party’s acting general secretary for four months. Now the delegates are supposed to officially elect him into office. Djir-Sarai advertises with a promise: “I will never, never, never be an additional government spokesman. My mission is FDP.”

That goes down well with the approximately 660 delegates. 89 percent voted for Djir-Sarai. A very good election result. The previous Secretary General, Volker Wissing, got almost 83 percent a good two years ago.

His goal: corrective and clear lines

The challenge for Djir-Sarai is now clear: he should and wants to make the FDP visible in the traffic light coalition with the unequal partners SPD and Greens. Djir-Sarai put it this way in an interview with him ARD-Capital Studio: “It is the expectation of the party and also of the voters of the FDP that if we are in a coalition like the traffic light coalition, that the FDP acts as a corrective and ensures that clear lines are recognizable here. “

Because it was not the desired alliance of the FDP supporters that has ruled the country for a good four months. Djir-Sarai sees the FDP as a bourgeois corrective to two more left-wing parties, the SPD and the Greens.

Some plans are outdated

The coalition agreement between the very different partners had been finely balanced. Everyone should find themselves. But the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine was not foreseen – now some plans in the areas of energy policy, finance or defense are outdated.

Above all, foreign and security policy are now the focus: And the FDP does not have a ministry that could achieve much in terms of foreign policy. But Djir-Sarai, who was born in Tehran in 1976 and came to Germany when he was 11, has been involved in foreign policy since he was first elected to the Bundestag in 2009.

Early warning of Russia

He emphasizes that he warned early on about Russia’s aggressive stance that his personal family history makes him particularly sensitive to lack of freedom. “For my children today, democracy and freedom are a matter of course. I think that’s a good thing. But democracy and freedom will never be a matter of course for me.”

Like the FDP defense expert Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, Djir-Sarai called for the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine at an early stage. Show the flag in the coalition.

State elections as a benchmark

The Secretary General must also keep an eye on the upcoming state elections in May. In North Rhine-Westphalia the FDP is the junior partner of the CDU and in Schleswig-Holstein it is in a coalition with the CDU and the Greens. In both countries, the FDP is in danger of losing government participation.

A picture of the mood at the party conference among delegates from North Rhine-Westphalia shows: They rely on the visibility of the FDP in traffic lights. “We have to make a lot of compromises. And it’s certainly an important task for the Secretary-General to go back to the FDP’s pure position,” says one of them.

A delegate believes that the FDP will be noticed. “In fact, also as a corrective to the two left-wing parties that are there at the moment,” she adds. “I’m grateful that Christian Lindner is Federal Finance Minister and looks at the finances,” says one of her colleagues. The people in North Rhine-Westphalia are very interested in that.

The state elections in May are likely to be the first real indicator for the new Secretary General. However, the 89 percent approval at the party congress is a leap of faith for Djir-Sarai.

FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai

Martin Polansky, ARD Berlin, April 24, 2022 09:18 a.m

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