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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: AV Installation Engineer

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to business growth, this is...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Care Support Workers

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this care company base...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent