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Germany

Germany's Free Democrats Want Möllemann Out

The FDP wants to expel Jürgen Möllemann, the figure at the heart of an illegal funding campaign, which has badly damaged the liberals' reputation.

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Jürgen Möllemann is unlikely to leave the Free Democrats without a fight.

One of Germany's most charismatic political figures is on the verge of being kicked out of his party should he not resign first.

The business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) federal leadership voted unanimously to oust the controversial Möllemann if he he did not leave the party voluntarily by next Monday.

The party has been tainted by a scandal involving illegal funding and an election pamphlet attacking Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Möllemann was dealt a further blow after his own state FDP association leaders followed their federal colleagues' lead in demanding his expulsion.

The 57-year-old former cabinet minister is accused of orchestrating some €1.5 million ($1.48 million) in illegal funding and attempting to cover up his actions.

Damaging maneuvers

In their report, FDP leaders said that Möllemann had tried to maneuver the party "into the murky waters of the political fringe," a reference to the pre-election campaign brochure in which he attacked Sharon and Michel Friedman, vice-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

The FDP's poor showing in the September election, in which they only garnered 7.4 percent of the vote having aimed for 18 percent, is largely attributed to the brochure campaign accusing Friedman of inciting anti-semitism.

Seperately, Möllemann is facing a criminal investigation in his home state on suspicion of violating party funding law. The FDP has already had to pay an €873,500 fine to the federal parliament.

Möllemann vows to fight

But Möllemann would not be Möllemann if he did not come out fighting against the leadership's decision. "I would never in my wildest dreams have believed that the liberal party of law and order, the FDP, could have given me a political trial without hearing my testimony," he said in a magazine interview to be released later this week.

And Möllemann's colleagues believe Möllemann will put up a fight to the bitter end. Deputy Chairman Walter Döring told the party to expect a "mudslinging match."

Birgit Homburger, deputy chairwoman of the FDP's parliamentary group, warned of a protracted affair: With a personality like Möllemann you have to expect that he will inflict further damage on the party."

"No other option"

Guido Westerwelle

Guido Westerwelle will be hoping to exorcise the party's ill-fated 18 percent campaign with Möllemann's expulsion.

Guido Westerwelle (right), the FDP's youthful leader who some say covertly supported Möllemann's dogmatic approach in trying to put the party into the spotlight, is convinced that Möllemann's expulsion will be successful. "The facts are clear," he said, adding, "there is no other option."

The case for Möllemann's expulsion will be put to an arbitration panel appointed by the party. The party leadership said it would launch proceedings on December 9 should Möllemann not quit voluntarily.

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