At the Free Democrats' convention, party head Philipp Rösler attacked rival parties, but also criticized his coalition partners led by Angela Merkel. Rösler hopes to see Merkel shift on citizenship law and gay marriage.
Philipp Rösler called upon his fellow Free Democrats (FDP) to show unity and confidence during the party's early convention, held in Berlin on Saturday (09.03.2013). Six months ahead of federal elections in September, Rösler surprised delegates with an unusually militant speech.
His reward: He was returned to the position of party chair with 85.7 percent of the votes - although he recorded a better performance during his first selection to the post two years ago, raking in 95 percent.
Rösler has reason to feel like a victor, though, after having been viewed by many at the beginning of the year as on his way out. The tide turned when the FDP recorded a surprising election success in Rösler's home state of Lower Saxony (9.9 percent). The young politician's opponents within his party had to change their tune.
At the FDP convention - held seven weeks earlier than originally scheduled – Rösler was on the offensive: not toward some of his opponents seated before him, but toward the party's rivals. A new parliament will be elected in the fall, and the center-right FDP hopes to continue its governing coalition with Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). Rösler had sharp words for Germany's other mainstream parties, the Greens and the Social Democrats (SDP).
'Envied across Europe'
A prime target was the SPD's candidate for chancellor, Peer Steinbrück, and his tax plan that would - in Rösler's words - suck 40 billion euros ($52 billion) from taxpayers' pockets. Such a "tax-increase orgy," as Rösler put it, would be an attack on the country's productive class, Rösler continued.
Humility and optimism
Those expecting a showdown between Rösler and fellow party member Rainer Brüderle would have been disappointed. Brüderle made no secret in previous months of the fact that he thought Rösler should go as the party's leader. But the party chair and federal economics and technology minister seemed to prefer harmony, instead. After all, he and Brüderle will be sharing the work in an unusual election year arrangement. Rösler will head the party, and Brüderle will serve as the FDP's top candidate in September's national elections.
"The FDP needs a strong team - a captain and a striker, who can shoot the goals," Rösler said.
And the re-elected party chair rounded his address out with a flourish of humility. He admitted having made mistakes, though he reassured party members that he had learned from his missteps. Looking ahead to parliamentary elections on September 22, he said, "Nobody should ever underestimate the FDP's resolve, unity and will to win."
That seems especially true of Rösler himself, whom nearly everyone had already written off.