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Germany

German foreign minister, under fire, says he will stay on as his party's leader

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Sunday he would remain leader of the Free Democrats (FDP) – despite pressure from inside the party to step down. The FDP has dipped to new lows in recent opinion polls.

Guido Westerwelle

Westerwelle is blamed by many for the FDP's falling poll numbers

Despite pressure from his party to step down, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle insists he will remain leader of the Free Democrats (FDP).

The FDP has dipped to new lows in recent opinion polls and prominent members in the party called last week for Westerwelle to resign.

The free-market liberal FDP is the junior partner in Angela Merkel's government and has seen its popularity plummet since joining the coalition in September 2009.

"I will not leave the deck when it is stormy," Westerwelle told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Weathering the storm

Currently the party's ratings hover around the five percent mark, the minimum to enter parliament, and some FDP members have blamed Westerwelle for the poor showing.

Reichstag dome and German flag

Critics say those in Berlin have become distant from the rest of the FDP

"I have been party leader for ten years. In all, these were successful years for the FDP, in part because I did not yield to storms," Westerwelle told the newspaper.

He defended his and the coalition's record saying they had "steered Germany successfully through a serious economic and financial crisis."

He admitted he had “made mistakes” and that the coalition had not met initial expectations following the election, but that they were on course now.

Westerwelle's critics

Wolfgang Kubicki, head of the FDP party in the state of Schleswig-Holstein said Westerwelle in Berlin is "aloof" from the problems in the party as a whole.

In an interview with news magazine Der Spiegel he said the FDP was at risk of "collapsing in upon itself."

He and others in the party feel that Westerwelle has seen his time in the sun and would like to move on. But others wonder what the alternative would be and fear that chaos could break out in the party should Westerwelle step down after ten years at the top.

FDP General Secretary Christian Lindner has come out in favor of Westerwelle's leadership.

In an interview to be published in Monday's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, Lindner said "the whole party leadership has rallied behind Guido Westerwelle."

He added that those criticizing the party leadership "had not made one single constructive proposal."

Author: Catherine Bolsover (dpa, dapd, Reuters)
Editor: Kyle James

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