German liberals invoke the ‘red threat’ in fight for their political life

Sunday’s general election will be make-or-break for the party who have attempted to strike fear into voters who remember the Communist era of more than two decades ago

Berlin

The blue and yellow banners of Germany’s embattled liberal Free Democrats (FDP) were all over the centre of the once Communist eastern city of Erfurt this week, but red was the colour that dominated the speech given by the party’s leading candidate in this Sunday’s general election.

Barely 300 people had gathered on a square in the east German city to listen to Rainer Brüderle, a former economics minister and the pro-business, anti-tax party’s front-runner in what will be a make-or-break poll for the party.

Mr Brüderle gave his onlookers a lecture of how Germany, with the liberals in government, was the envy of the rest of Europe. But then he revealed the secret weapon designed to strike fear into those who remembered the Communist era of more than two decades ago: the red threat.

The spectre of a future German government comprising Social Democrats, leftist Greens and worst of all, The Left Party – successors of the former East German Communists – loomed large.

“Sooner or later it will happen – if we don’t watch out. They are in bed with one another,” Mr Brüderle insisted. “They think we are all too stupid to know what to do with our own money. They know better,” he added, with an appeal to vote FDP at all costs this weekend. “A vote for us is a vote for Angela Merkel.”

The speech and its threat of a return to red government were clearly designed as a wake-up call to Erfurt’s voters. But few seemed impressed. “I am not sure that The Left Party will ever be in national government,” said Herbert Goller, a retired businessman, “I think I prefer to vote directly for Merkel than for the liberals,” he told The Independent.

Mr Brüderle’s speech appeared desperate and there is little doubt that it was. The liberals’ disastrous performance in key state elections in Bavaria last weekend has forced the party to begin a last-minute fight for political survival.

Its outcome will determine whether Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative liberal government can stay in office after Sunday’s general election or whether she will be obliged to seek a coalition government with the Social Democrats.

Without the liberals in government, Ms Merkel may find it more difficult to support her conservative ally David Cameron in his bid to reform the European Union and curb the power of Brussels. As partners in government, the Social Democrats could also obstruct Ms Merkel’s strict European austerity policies.

The left-of-centre party has called repeated for more investment in stricken eurozone countries during its election campaign.

Unlike Ms Merkel, who has said repeatedly that she wants Britain to remain in the EU, Frank Walter Steinmeier, the Social Democrat tipped to be her next foreign minister in the event of a grand coalition has said he expects the UK to quit.

In Bavaria, the liberals secured a mere 3.3 per cent of the vote – a figure far below the 5 per cent hurdle needed to enter a state or national parliament under Germany’s election rules. To avoid a repeat humiliation this Sunday, the party is now desperately trying to persuade conservative supporters to “loan” tactical votes to the liberals in the general election.

Such an option is possible as the German election system allows voters two votes: one for their constituency candidate and one for the party they wish to support at national level. “Voters can be very clever by supporting a strong conservative candidate locally and casting a second vote for us,” insisted Patrick Döring, the FDP’s general secretary on Monday.

But it is by no means certain that the FDP’s strategy will pay off. Opinion polls published today suggested that in he wake of the Bavaria poll, support for the FDP had dropped so low that Ms Merkel would have only two choices after Sunday’s election: a grand coalition with the Social Democrats or a conservative Green alliance. The environmentalist party has categorically ruled out the latter option.

A majority of German voters appeared to be in favour of a grand coalition with Ms Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats polling 39 per cent of the vote and the Social Democrats 25. Liberal support was down to between 4 and 5 per cent with the Greens and The Left party at 10 and 9 per cent respectively.

Balance of power: The major players

Christian Democratic Union

Leader: Angela Merkel

Current polling: 39 per cent

Social Democratic Party

Leader: Sigmar Gabriel.

Current polling: 25 per cent

Greens

Leader: Jürgen Trittin

Current polling: 10 per cent

Left Party

Leader: Katja Kipping

Current polling: 9 per cent

Free Democratic Party

Leader: Philipp Rösler

Current polling: 5 per cent

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy