New old liberal party

Ignatieff - le PLC et le Québec

Germany is likely to have a more decisive and coherent government as a result of its federal election on Sunday. An unwieldy coalition of the country's two largest parties will be replaced by a coalition between one large party, the Christian Democratic Union, and the small but significant - and growing - Free Democratic Party.
The return to the government benches of the comparatively market-oriented FDP, after an 11-year absence, is a welcome change. It remains to be seen what effect this has on Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, who early in her leadership of the CDU proposed to substantially liberalize the German economy, but has subsequently pursued a cautious, consensual course.
Before the reunification of Germany, the FDP served a valuable centrist role in West Germany, usually holding the balance of power under the country's system of mixed-member proportional representation, and facilitating the alternation of power between the CDU and the Social Democratic Party.
Since the addition of the Green Party and the Left Party (the successor to the Communist Party that ruled East Germany), the political spectrum has become more complex and unstable. For a while, it seemed likely that the FDP would fall below the threshold of 5 per cent of the popular vote, which is required for representation in the Bundestag, the federal German parliament - which might well have led to its disappearance.
Guido Westerwelle, the FDP Leader, has re-energized his party, taking it to its highest-ever share of the popular vote at 14.6 per cent, a proportionately large gain from 9.8 per cent in the previous election. The FDP also seems to have benefited, in the current recession, from its long-standing reputation for economic competence. But the party has now fared well beyond its stereotypical support base of middle-aged businessmen in the former West Germany, doing quite well among voters younger than 30 and in some parts of the former East Germany.
Time in opposition should focus the minds of the Social Democrats, the Left and the Greens on how to reposition themselves. That might result in a united left-wing alternative.
Ms. Merkel has promised some tax cuts, though less than the FDP wants; Germany needs tax revenues to pay down public debt it incurred to counteract the recession. The CSU-FDP coalition is likely to be stable and enduring. Consequently, the FDP will have more influence to press for economic reform, when a recovery is well under way.

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