German Chancellor Angela Merkel's FDP coalition partners began their campaign to remain in government, criticizing the opposition and citing German prosperity as a reason for them to stay in power.
The Free Democrat Party used the congress in the southern city of Nuremburg over the weekend to present itself as the reason Germany was able to retain its economic footing during the financial crisis that gripped many European Union countries.
The FDP's top candidate, Rainer Brüderle, used the example of the French economy to illustrate what happens when taxes were high, working hours decreased and retirement early.
Brüderle said that chancellor-candidate Peer Steinbrück from the country's center-left Social Democrats (SPD) wanted to create a "debt union" in Europe after the September 22 election, partnering with French President Francois Hollande's Socialist faction.
"France is our closest partner, but I am very worried about its development," Brüderle, a former economy minister, said.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, party chief Philipp Rösler campaigned for higher minimum wages in certain sectors and regions and said business models with hourly wages of 3 euros ($3.90) were unfair. With 57.4 percent of the vote, his party agreed.
"This is not a social market economy," Rösler had said, making the case for a minimum wage: "Performance must be rewarded."
In its last congress before September's elections, the FDP came out fighting, promising to renew the "black-yellow" coalition: the partnership between the FDP and Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).
Representatives of both sides have said that the parties want to maintain that alliance beyond the September vote, in which Merkel will seek a third term.
In January, the opposition-controlled upper house, the Bundesrat, agreed to a nationwide minimum of 8.50 euros an hour. The SPD has made wage law a major part of its election campaign.
Five months out from Germany's national polls, Merkel's conservatives are leading opinion polls. However, the FDP has seen support, once 15 percent, drop below the 5 percent cutoff for re-entry into parliament.
Rösler's popularity has waned in Germany over his brief tenure as FDP chair. He managed to retain the FDP leadership via a power-sharing agreement with Brüderle.
jlw/jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)