German liberals vote to stay in Scholz’s fractious coalition

BERLIN (Reuters) -A slim majority of the members of Germany’s Free Democrats have voted in a non-binding membership poll to stay in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s fractious three-way governing coalition, party sources said on Monday.

The low-tax pro-business party’s membership has increasingly chafed at governing with Scholz’s socially minded Social Democrats and the Greens, leading to speculation that the coalition might not last the just under two years that remain of its term.

Wolfgang Kubicki, a close ally of party leader Christian Lindner, hailed the result as clear evidence that voices in the party calling loudly for an exit were in the minority.

“This result strengthens us in the coalition,” he told Funke newspapers. “The silent majority clearly does not want to quit the government.”

The poll was launched after the party was ejected from regional parliaments in Bavaria and Hessen after falling below the 5% vote share threshold in elections.

With the war in Ukraine, the loss of Russian gas and the need for an accelerated energy transition imposing unprecedented costs on Europe’s industrial powerhouse at a time of low or negative growth, the FDP is finding its fiscally orthodox recipes a hard sell.

The bleak economic backdrop is hurting all three parties in the polls, with the opposition conservatives on around 30%, around twice the level of the SPD and the Greens. The FDP are hovering around the 5% mark nationally.

In his New Year’s address on Dec. 31, Scholz acknowledged times were tough, but promised that Germany had the strength to get through a rough patch.

“Many are dissatisfied, and I take that seriously. But at the same time: we in Germany will get through this,” he said. “Inflation is down, wages are rising, and winter gas stores are full to the brim. We do well even in headwinds.”

(Reporting by Alex Ratz; Writing by Thomas Escritt;Editing by Alison Williams)