The attack gave a taste of what the Liberals could do in the federal election campaign. The FDP, Bavaria’s CSU Prime Minister Markus Söder said Monday, should “consider whether the course it is setting itself with the AfD is really the right one for the country.”
The accusation is nothing new: since the AfD-backed election of Thuringian FDP leader Thomas Kemmerich as prime minister, liberals have had a reputation for not always abiding by the political distance rules for the far right.
That was not what Söder was about with his attack. The CSU chief previously responded to the liberals’ persistent criticism of the federal government’s corona policies, which the FDP viewed as too strict but also chaotic. The free democrats are calling for closer involvement of the Bundestag.
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There is more to the current dispute between the Union and the FDP: it shows that the two sides are growing apart. Memories of the canceled Jamaica polls in the fall of 2017 are aroused when the FDP saw itself unfairly by the Union – and left the talks.
The relationship between the two former dream partners is also currently tense. “What did Corona policy do to Markus Söder that he has brought the FDP closer to the AfD because we want to keep parliaments involved in fundamental rights violations and see the effectiveness of measures justified?” Lindner asked Monday. . His party colleague Konstantin Kuhle wrote on Twitter that Söder had “followed a strict legal course on the heels of the AfD for years”. So the charge against the FDP is a “joke”.
Two things are already shining through the conflict for election year 2021. On the one hand, the FDP is trying to put itself back on the map as a civil rights party. She even knows Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) by her side. He demands “that the Bundestag should clarify its role as legislator and public forum in order to avoid the impression that fighting pandemics is a matter for the executive and the judiciary alone”. He had built up expertise on how the Bundestag could improve “legal certainty of all measures”. That is exactly what the liberals want. Only they barely get through with their almost identical message.
Second, the current dispute shows how much the liberals should fear Söder. Lindner has known him for a long time: his playing skills, his talent for quickly recognizing a mood. If he runs for Chancellor of the Union, he would try to keep the FDP down – and in doing so, he would quickly remove the vowel of AfD closeness again.
Aggressive: Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) of Bavaria Photo: AFP / Peter Kneffel
Söder would also prefer black and green as a government option. That means, the Union could calmly poach in the federal election campaign in the FDP camp if it doesn’t need the Liberals as majority sellers. For the FDP, this poses a twofold danger: if it turns out before the elections that the FDP has no chance to participate in government, some voters could switch to the Union to strengthen their relationship with the Greens. As in 2013, the FDP should fear re-joining the Bundestag.
Lindner knows he needs a power perspective after the Jamaica debacle. For his political survival, he must somehow make it to the next government, depending on the state of affairs as the smallest partner in a coalition with the Union and the Greens or with the Greens and the SPD.
In view of the race for CDU presidency and candidate for chancellor, he can therefore only hope for one thing: Armin Laschet. He knows and appreciates him from his time together in the North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament, the CDU and the FDP rule harmoniously there – a Chancellor Laschet would certainly not undermine Lindner. Söder would probably be less sympathetic to him.