Sunday, April 3, 2011

Germany's foreign minister said Sunday he will not seek another term as leader of the junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition amid calls for his replacement after embarrassing losses in recent state elections. Guido Westerwelle told reporters that he would not run again to lead the pro-business Free Democratic Party at the party's congress next month, after the party's poor results in last weekend's elections in two southwestern states. Westerwelle said he would concentrate his energy on his post as foreign minister. "It was a difficult decision, but also an easy one," Westerwelle told reporters, hours after he returned from a visit to China and Japan. Pressure had been mounting on the foreign minister, who also serves as Merkel's deputy, since the Free Democrats saw their share of the votes halved in two state ballots last week. They were forced from the government in Baden-Wuerttemberg state and failed to make the regional legislature in Rhineland-Palatinate. Westerwelle has led the Free Democrats for nearly 10 years, returning them to government with a strong showing in 2009. But their continued support in nuclear energy - deeply unpopular in Germany - and failure to deliver on loudly pledged tax cuts cost them votes. A poll for ZDF television released Friday said only 15 percent of those question saying they believed in the party. About 69 percent of those polled held Westerwelle responsible for the losses in the state elections and only 36 percent thought that he should remain at the helm of the FDP. The poll questioned 1,283 eligible voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Health Minister Philipp Roesler, 38, and party secretary general Christian Lindner, 32, have been floated as possible replacements for Westerwelle. The decision will be made at a party congress in May.


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