The Free Democratic Party (FDP)

The Free Democratic Party (FDP - Freie Demokratische Partei) is a liberal political party in Germany. The party's ideology combines beliefs in individual liberty, in a state or government "that is as small as possible and as large as necessary." It promotes a market economy, with traditional features of the German social welfare system. The FDP is currently the third-largest party in the Bundestag.

The FDP was formed on December 11, 1948, by local liberal parties. These were founded in 1945 by former members of the liberal German Democratic Party (DDP) and some from the center-right German People's Party (DVP). The FDP's first chairman, Theodor Heuss, was a former leader of the DDP. The FDP has traditionally been composed mainly of middle-class and upper-class Protestants who consider themselves to be independents and heirs to the European liberal tradition.

The party is a relatively weak institutional party, gaining between 5.8 and 12.8% of the votes in federal elections. However, it has formed the junior partner in coalition with either the Christian Democrats (CDU) or the Social Democrats (SPD), thereby participating in governmenments for 41 years. It has generally distinguished itself from the CDU and the SPD by advocating more market-oriented policies.

The party has also been associated with the label "Partei der Besserverdienenden" ("Party of the better-earning people"), which the party had coined in a draft manifesto for the 1994 federal elections. Political adversaries have often used this term to argue that the FDP opposes the interests of poorer people.

Throughout its history, the party's economic policies have shifted between social liberalism (in the European sense) and market liberalism. Since the 1980s the FDP has maintained a consistently free-market stance, by German standards. However, many of its policies acknowledge that certain aims cannot be reached by market mechanisms alone and would not be seen as free-market policies in, for example, the USA; so the FDP supports a minimum standard of welfare protections for all and strong anti-trust policies.

In foreign policy the FDP supports European integration and transatlantic partnership.

In all federal election campaigns since the 1980s, the party has sided with the CDU and CSU, the main centrist parties in Germany. An exception to this rule was the 2002 campaign, where "equidistance" to CDU and SPD was claimed. Following German reunification in 1990, the FDP merged with the Association of Free Democrats, a grouping of liberals from East Germany. During the 1990s, the FDP won between 6.2 and 11 percent of the vote in Bundestag elections. Between 1982 and 1998, it served as the junior partner in the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the CDU.

In the 2005 general election the party won 9.8 percent of the vote and 61 federal deputies, an unpredicted improvement from prior opinion polls. It is believed that this was partly due to tactical voting by CDU-CSU supporters who supported strong economic reforms. However, because the CDU did less well than predicted, the FDP and the CDU were unable to form a coalition government (a contrast to the situation after the 2002 federal election where a coalition between the two parties was impossible primarily because of the weak results of the FDP). Disagreements over social issues (the FDP taking a liberal stance, the CDU more conservative) also complicated a coalition agreement. The party was considered as a potential member of various possible political coalitions, following the election.

One possibility was a partnership between the FDP, the Social Democrats and Greens, but most Free Democrats felt that the Social Democrats were not bold enough on economic reform. Also considered was a CDU-FDP-Green coalition (called "Jamaica Coalition" because of the party colours, the same as those of the Jamaican flag), but the Greens quickly ruled out participation in any coalition with the CDU-CSU. Joschka Fischer in particular dismissed the possibility out of hand. Instead, the CDU formed a grand coalition with the SPD, and the FDP entered the opposition. FDP leader Guido Westerwelle became leader of the opposition because of the Free Democrats' position as the largest non-government party in the Bundestag.

The party's unofficial motto is "So viel Staat wie nötig, so wenig Staat wie möglich!" ("as much state as necessary, as little state as possible!)"

Berlin Political Personalities Today

1. Guido Westerwelle - Leader of the opposition in the Bundestag.

2. Name or Alias Here - A resident of which borough

3. Name or Alias Here - A resident of which borough

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