Germany's Free Democrats (FDP), Angela Merkel's
coalition partner, revamped its leadership Monday after a bitter
defeat for the chancellor's conservative bloc in a key state
The pro-business FDP decided that the party's parliamentary leader Rainer Bruederle, 67, would be its top candidate in national elections, which are expected in September.
The move came after the party chief Philipp Roesler signalled his readiness to quit after his small pro-business party was rescued from a humiliating result in Sunday's election in Lower Saxony by supporters of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) through strategic voting in the ballot box.
In the end, the party also decided that the 39-year-old Roesler is to remain its chief.
Earlier in the day, Roesler had proposed to the FDP's executive committee that Bruederle, 67, take over if he wanted to head up the party's national election campaign.
"I am willing to stand aside if Rainer Bruederle also wants to be party chief," Roesler said at the meeting, party sources told dpa.
Roesler has been under fire for months from senior FDP members for failing to arrest the party's sharp fall in opinion polls and its series of losses in state elections.
By offering to step aside, some FDP sources said, Roesler was laying down a challenge to his coalition critics.
Polls during the run-up to the Sunday election had pointed to the FDP battling to cross the 5-per-cent hurdle needed to return to Lower Saxony's state parliament.
But in the end the FDP grabbed a stunning 9.9 per cent of the vote. However, this was largely as a result of CDU supporters splitting their votes between the CDU and the FDP.
Still, the CDU-FDP coalition was defeated in a photo finish result which saw the Social Democrats and their Green Party allies emerged with a wafer-thin majority in the state legislature.
In German elections, voters are able to cast ballots for both a party and a candidate standing in an electorate.
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