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FDP member survey lets traffic light parties breathe a sigh of relief

The FDP has asked its members about remaining in the traffic light coalition. A majority of participants want to stay. This means backing for party leader Lindner's course.

The result of the FDP member survey is an important indicator of the mood.
The result of the FDP member survey is an important indicator of the mood.

Parties - FDP member survey lets traffic light parties breathe a sigh of relief

The FDP party leadership and the traffic light partners can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being: in the FDP member vote on whether to remain in the coalition, 52.24% of those who voted were in favor of continuing the government's work, while 47.76% wanted to end the alliance, according to the party.

However, only 26,058 of around 72,100 members took part in the survey. According to the FDP, 65,899 were eligible to vote, resulting in a turnout of 39.54 percent.

The party leadership led by its chairman, Finance Minister Christian Lindner, had campaigned for the coalition and now sees the result as a tailwind for itself. Nevertheless, governing is unlikely to become any easier for the coalition, as a number of problems remain unresolved.

The FDP Federal Executive Committee launched the survey on December 18 after 598 members requested that it be carried out. Members were able to take part online for two weeks. The question was: "Should the FDP end the coalition with the SPD and Greens as part of the federal government?" The answer could be "yes" or "no".

The members' vote has no practical consequences. This is because the constitution also states: "The bodies of the party are not bound by the result of the member survey in their decision-making." The result is therefore regarded as an opinion poll.

Reactions to the member survey

One of the initiators of the member survey, Matthias Nölke, continues to push for a new course for the Liberals. "The result is a clear sign of dissatisfaction within the party," the Kassel FDP district chairman told the German Press Agency. The party leadership must take this into account in its future actions in the traffic light government.

However, FDP party leader Christian Lindner sees the result of the member survey on remaining in the traffic light coalition as a "clear mandate to continue to show a liberal profile in government action". The Federal Minister of Finance wrote this on X (formerly: Twitter) after the result was announced. He sees the outcome of the vote "as an expression of responsibility for Germany".

FDP Secretary General Bijan Djir-Sarai wrote in a statement: "Never before have so many party members taken part in an internal FDP opinion-forming process." The survey made it clear that the party wants to "take responsibility for our country and shape it". The members wanted "a clear liberal signature in government policy".

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) wrote on the platform X, formerly Twitter: "A majority of the FDP base wants the party to continue to take responsibility." He wrote the participation rate up to "almost 40 percent".

FDP Vice-Chairman Wolfgang Kubicki believes the party has been strengthened by the survey results. "It is a good result, because it shows both the will to remain in the traffic light and the will for change," Kubicki told the German Press Agency. "This result gives us backing for a confident course within and with the traffic light."

The CSU sees the federal government in a deep crisis following the narrow vote by the FDP base to remain in the coalition with the SPD and Greens and is once again pushing for new elections. "The FDP is completely torn apart and therefore unable to act in the long term," CSU General Secretary Martin Huber told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. "A narrow majority is clinging on to retaining power and is thus missing an opportunity for an urgently needed fresh start."

Entering the coalition with the SPD and the Greens was controversial in parts of the FDP from the outset. The result could now pacify the debate within the party for the time being. And the coalition partners would also benefit from this. After all, government policy has been repeatedly overshadowed by disputes in recent times.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also been critical of the coalition's performance in recent months. "Discussions about the right path are part of it. So is the struggle for fair compromises - even if I could have done without some of the loud debates in recent weeks and months," said the SPD politician in his New Year's address.

However, a democracy cannot function without discussions about the right path. "Nothing will improve if we only talk about each other instead of with each other. What makes us strong is our willingness to compromise."

Debate week on the budget is coming up

The coalition government must also demonstrate a willingness to compromise in the coming weeks and months. This is because the coalition is still arguing about the budget for 2024 following the Federal Constitutional Court's budget ruling. According to the government's plans, the Bundestag Budget Committee will vote on the changes and planned cuts in its draft budget in mid-January. A debate week on the budget and the final decision are planned in the Bundestag at the end of January. The budget could then pass the Bundesrat at the beginning of February. It is unclear whether the timetable can be adhered to.

The issue of migration also remains a huge challenge for the coalition government. According to a survey, more than two thirds do not trust the federal government to find solutions. In the survey conducted by the opinion research institute Yougov for "Welt am Sonntag", around 69% of the 2,000 respondents stated that they "did not at all" or "rather not" trust the traffic light coalition to tackle this issue. Around 23% said they "rather" or "completely" trusted the governing coalition to do so. Around 9 percent answered "don't know".

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