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Germany’s FDP picks Lindner as new leader after election debacle

The pro-business Free Democrat party, or FDP, has chosen a new leader. Christian Lindner will be charged with picking the party back up after its worst ever election result, when it failed to win a place in parliament.

At a special party conference held in Berlin on Saturday, Christian Lindner, most recently the party leader for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, received about 79 percent of the votes to become the new national FDP head.

"The time for mourning is over," Lindner told the approximately 660 delegates during his leadership campaign, "from today we are building ourselves back from the ground up."

In the September federal elections, the Free Democrats gained only 4.8 percent of the vote, which put them below the 5 percent threshold required to enter Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, for the first time since 1949.

From best to worst

The pro-business but socially liberal party has served as a junior coalition partner and "kingmaker" for 52 of the past 64 years, since the post-war re-establishment of a German government.

After the 2009 elections, the FDP returned to government as junior partners to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, after winning a post-war record 14.6 percent of the vote in September 2009.

The dramatic decline to a record low this year left the party reeling and saw its top figures, including leader Philipp Rösler, resign. Lindner announced that he would seek the party leadership just one day after the electoral embarrassment.

Favored candidate chosen

The 34-year-old subsequently emerged as the front runner to take the helm of the FDP.

Also a former secretary general of the party, Lindner later presided over a comparative success in regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2012. The Free Democrats won 8.6 percent of the vote in Germany's most populous region last May, less than in the previous state polls but still enough to qualify the party for representation in the regional parliament.

Lindner entered politics aged just 14, and said on Saturday that next year's elections for the European parliament could serve as a first step on the FDP's road to recovery ahead of Germany's next general elections in 2017.

se/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)