Dear Free Democratic Party of Germany,
In 2009, you joined with Angela Merkel’s CDU party to form a coalition government as a junior partner. Rather than pushing your ideas to the centre of public discourse, you were largely sidelined for 4 years. This is the hard truth.
Indeed, your voters abandoned you the following election, in 2013, when you didn’t even receive enough votes to re-enter the Bundestag.
But you’ve clearly learned from past mistakes. This September your party, led by Christian Lindner, recovered all the seats it had lost the previous election. How? By presenting clear, fresh policy positions that both differentiated you from other parties, and aligned more closely with German values and aspirations.
In particular, you campaigned against the pooling of debts across Eurozone member states, aligning with the majority of Germans unwilling to bail Greece out, yet again, in 2015. Germans taxpayers are increasingly shouldering the burden of what is becoming a transfer union in all but name.
Now, you find yourselves faced once more with the prospect of joining a Merkel-led coalition government. This time, however, you are equipped with the knowledge of what happens when you surrender all major policy positions to the CDU: you disappear.
Therefore, there is no need to rush a coalition agreement. Nor is there a need to insist on participating in government. Many parties around the world have ‘confidence and supply’ agreements with minority governments, involving concord on a number of policies, but not all. It is possible, in such positions, to wield even more power than when locked into the minutiae of cabinet meetings, or when obligated to align on all decisions. Just know this: the CDU needs you far more than you need them. You hold all the cards.
Knowing what you know from your past, it is in your existential interest as a party to remain faithful to your core beliefs. Moreover, it is in Germany’s—and indeed all of Europe’s—interest that you continue to denounce attempts to pool Eurozone debts.
As you know, there is a growing push from Paris to create a pan-Eurozone budget, effectively formalizing the transfer union you criticized in your election campaign. Knowing the flexibility Merkel has shown Brussels in the past, you alone stand between German taxpayers and pensioners, and a system that penalizes them for their fiscal prudence.
You have an enormous amount of leverage in these negotiations—be sure to use it wisely.