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Germany

German foreign minister under fire over party's sliding poll ratings

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is isolated from his party and has allowed poll ratings to plummet, a high-ranking colleague claims. There are fears that the Free Democrats will suffer in elections next year.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

Westerwelle should not count on the full support of his party

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is under fire from a leading Free Democratic Party (FDP) colleague who claims that the party may be about to implode.

Wolfgang Kubicki, head of the Schleswig Holstein FDP, said he believes national party head Westerwelle and his colleagues in the ruling federal coalition government have allowed the party to slide into a dramatic decline in poll ratings.

The Reichstag

Kubicki attacked FDP members in the government in Berlin

"Those who sit in government in Berlin have hardly any idea of what the state of the party is," Kubicki told the German news magazine Der Spiegel's website on Saturday. "They remain aloof from what is happening in the FDP."

Like the last days of the GDR

Kubicki accused members of the leadership of isolating themselves from other party members and failing to listen to colleagues on strategic issues. He likened the state of the party to that of the former East German leadership in the last days of the communist state.

"The situation that we find ourselves in reminds me of the late stages of the former East Germany," said Kubicki. "At some time it imploded. All of a sudden it was no longer there. Right until the end, the leadership could not grasp it. It could be that the FDP could also collapse in upon itself."

Although Kubicki said he could see no alternative leader emerging in the party at present, he raised possibility that Westerwelle could be ditched as leader in the event of severe defeats in state elections next year.

Defending the party leadership, Economics Minister Rainer Bruederle, also a member of the free-market liberal FDP, said the criticism was unfounded and an attempt to gain attention.

"It's always possible to make yourself stand out simply by positioning yourself against your own party," said Bruederle.

Risk of association

However, there was also criticism of the leadership from FDP representative Frank Schaeffler who said the party risked becoming too closely associated with senior coalition party, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats.

Economics Minister Rainer Bruederle

Bruederle dismissed the accusations as groundless

"We must be more confident within the government and not allow ourselves to be led around the circus ring by our coalition partner," said Schaeffler.

Regional elections are due to be held next year in six of Germany's 16 states, with the FDP's latest polling rating having fallen to below 5 percent according to figures published on Wednesday.

FDP mole had access to classified files

The criticism of Westerwelle's leadership follows the departure of his chief of staff Helmut Metzner, after the revelation that an FDP insider had briefed a US embassy contact with confidential information.

The situation was exacerbated on Sunday after a German newspaper reported that Metzner had access to secret government documents, including three classified internal files and two reports containing information on foreign affairs.

A foreign ministry spokesman said on Sunday that officials were considering blocking access to such files if investigations showed that they "scandalized" in any way.

Author: Richard Connor, Gabriel Borrud (Reuters, dpad)

Editor: Ben Knight

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