German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is facing immense pressure from among his own ranks to step down as leader of the Free Democrats. Possible names for his successor are already on the table.
Westerwelle is quickly losing his supporters
After 10 years as leader of the Free Democrats (FDP), Guido Westerwelle is feeling increased pressure to relinquish that role following a string of regional election defeats and growing unpopularity, even among his own ranks.
Party sources say they expect Westerwelle could hand in his resignation as early as Monday, at a meeting of the party executive. The current German foreign minister and vice chancellor is scheduled to return to Germany on Sunday from a trip to Asia.
Westerwelle, 49, whose FDP party are junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition, has been shown in polls to be the most unpopular politician in Germany.
Lindner is the youngest of the possible successors
Disastrous regional election results over the past two weeks have compounded dissatisfaction about Westerwelle within his party.
In the state of Baden-Württemberg, where the FDP is traditionally strong, support for the party halved to 5.3 percent - just a smidgen above the 5 percent needed to enter parliament. And in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt, it didn't even break through the so-called 5-percent hurdle.
The question of a potential successor to Westerwelle has not yet been answered. At least three names have been thrown into the hat: Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, 59, FDP General Secretary Christian Lindner, 32, and Health Minister Philipp Rösler, 38. A new leader would be chosen at the FDP party conference in Rostock in mid-May
Westerwelle himself has so far refused to say clearly whether he is ready to step down. When asked by reporters on his arrival in Tokyo, he said, "I am certainly not going to make a statement on party politics in Germany during a foreign trip to Japan. That would not be appropriate. And I shan't do it."
Author: Timothy Jones (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel