Founded in 1948, the liberal pro-business FDP participated in German governments led by the CDU and the SPD as a junior partner for a total of 45 years - before dropping out of parliament after the 2013 general election.
The FDP promotes free market economy and individual liberty and had a reputation as a "king maker" for both Germany's big parties, neither of whom have managed to get an absolute majority for decades. Frequently, the FDP emerged as a viable junior coalition partner. The FDP's critics alleged that the party catered only to its voter base of urban, wealthy, self-employed Germans - such as pharmacists, hotel owners, lawyers and doctors. It failed to get more than 5% of the vote in the 2013 election and therefore dropped out of the Bundestag. The party is seeking to recover its national parliamentary representation in the 2017 elections. Recent DW stories tagged "FDP" appear on this page.
Bavaria's former premier, Edmund Stoiber, has said the CSU is a victim of its own success after the party fell to a new low in the polls. Sunday's vote in Bavaria will likely see the CSU lose its parliamentary majority.
Almost 8,000 people working for the German government were given time-limited contracts without a reason, according to a report. Berlin's practices contradict the government's plans to keep those contracts to a minimum.
MPs from Angela Merkel's CDU have been accused of taking bribes from the German gunmaker Heckler & Koch to grease the export wheels. Germany's opaque party donations system remains vulnerable to bribery, activists say.
Aygül Kilic was a little-known candidate for the Free Democrats until her electoral poster ignited an online controversy. One of Kilic's party colleagues says those vilifying her for wearing a hijab should "go to hell."
During Germany's big election year, two parties received by far the most money from businesses and wealthy backers. Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU and the pro-business FDP received millions, according to Bundestag data.