He’s undoubtedly the man who killed the Jamaica coalition, but he’s also the one who tipped the political balance out of Chancellor Merkel’s hands.
Ever since Sunday, his shadow looms large in the center stage of the Bundesrepublik, which was waiting for the success of the negotiations for a black-yellow-green government, and instead has to contend with the aftermath of his dramatic exit from the negotiating table.
The whole government business is “making him sick,” at least according to his tweets, as well as his confirmed exit from the negotiations. The same cannot be said for his lust for power, which remains just as firm and even more determined.
Christian Wolfgang Lindner, born in 1979, from Wuppertal (in North Rhine-Westphalia), the leader of the FDP from December 2013, is now the undisputed icon of the new German liberals. He led the party to reconquering its place in the Bundestag (from which it had been “expelled” five years ago), doing away with the line of the old leaders.
Holding the cards in the negotiations with the Greens, the CDU and CSU, he abandoned the talks for the establishment of the fourth Merkel government on Sunday night. It was a shock, but one hinted at in advance: Lindner had made public his ultimatum on Saturday morning: “a solution until 13:00 tomorrow or the whole deal is off.” And so it was, despite the efforts to extend the negotiations until after midnight, and Mutti Merkel’s final offers.
The failure of the Jamaica coalition negotiations has hurt the FDP, the liberal leader summed up, although, he added, “there are positive points on this difficult day.” The first is that “now, the Liberals have their hands free,” although so far it’s not clear what they’re going to do.
Lindner was thrust into the spotlight for the first time in 2011, when, as a member of parliament, he proposed the reduction to 18 months of the period of receiving unemployment benefits for older workers. A staunch pro-European, he has always been in favor of investments in transport (which is to say, money for German automakers), but has opposed the passage to electric vehicles requested by the Greens. Since October 2016, he has held that “a sudden ban on gasoline and diesel engines would be economically harmful, of questionable effect for the environment, and impossible to achieve.”
What stands out most in his current program for governing is the right to study, in the form of loans for students that have to be reimbursed, as well as a rapprochement toward the Catholic and Protestant religion. “We Liberals are no longer the anti-clerical and anti-religious party we were in the past,” vows Lindner, angling toward the same pool of voters responsible for the success of the AfD and the collapse of the CDU-CSU.
Dedicated to the “new economy” even before joining the Düsseldorf parliament, until 2004 he was at the head of Moomax Gmbh, the web company he founded together with Hartmut Knüppel and Christopher Peterka. A member of the Bundestag from 2009 to 2012, a year ago Lindner became the FDP’s candidate for Chancellor, which went on to collect 10.7 percent of the vote in the federal elections on September 24.
A week later, he was able to push Chancellor Merkel to remove former Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, “promoted” to president of the parliament, replacing fellow CDU member Norbert Lammert. This was the pre-condition for the “Jamaica coalition” negotiations — which Lindner has just moved to sink.