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German regional party plans to use EU elections as springboard for Berlin

8 months ago 26

Mainly known as a regional party in Bavaria, the Free Voters plan to use next year’s EU elections as a springboard and dress rehearsal for their upcoming national election campaign.

After the recent triumphs of the Free Voters, the party is now setting its sights on the Bundestag, with next year’s European elections in particular, serving as a test run for building a nationwide infrastructure. By the time of the 2025 Bundestag elections, the party expects to be represented in three state parliaments and the European Parliament.

This would put the party in a good position to “finally break the 5% barrier” in the national elections, explained Ulrike Müller, the first MEP for the Free Voters, in an interview with Euractiv.

The Free Voters’ run has been filled with recent successes.

While the entered the European Parliament in 2014 and has had two MEPs as part of the liberal Renew Europe group sitting in the plenary, it recently managed to gain seats in several regional parliaments and even achieved a historical result in the latest Bavarian election in October, with almost 16 % of the vote.

“In Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, Brandenburg and the European Parliament, we are proving that we can do parliamentarianism, enrich democracy and make a difference when it comes to forming majorities,” Free Voter Secretary General Gregor Voht told Euractiv.

“So the Free Voters are now really getting out of their small regional party status,” said Müller, pointing to the party currently experiencing “a massive increase in membership.”

In addition to a growing party base, greater regional representation and the EU election campaign will undoubtedly help raise the party’s profile – elements which, according to Müller, will then support the federal election campaign for nationwide recognition.

The favourite foe

The Free Voters are mainly competing with a seemingly weakened liberal FDP, the junior coalition member that the Free Voters already ousted from Bavaria’s state parliament.

A study has found that the two parties are indeed courting the same audience. Both appeal to the same niche of voters who are “moderately” disillusioned with the CDU/CSU.

Nevertheless, the two parties work very closely together at the European level and are represented in the same European parliamentary group.

As the German delegation in the parliamentary group, they would coordinate with the FDP and advocate a German position, Müller said. The understanding with the FDP “has actually been going very well over these five years, very harmonious, very open. But that was also the case in the last mandate,” Müller added.

Nicola Beer, chair of the German FDP delegation and vice-president of the European Parliament made it clear to Euractiv that they are cooperating with the “liberal parties of Europe for a liberal and cosmopolitan Europe”. The cooperation between the FDP and the Free Voters primarily covers those policy areas with major overlaps in content.

Müller also emphasised that, despite the many similarities, the party would position itself differently to the FDP in many areas.

The party’s EU election programme is currently being drawn up and ” naturally looks very different from that of the FDP”, said Müller, without giving further details.

Upcoming elections, whether at the state or European level, will show whether the two liberal parties will continue to coexist as they do in the European Parliament or whether the Free Voters will enter other state parliaments whilst harming the FDP, as has already happened in Bavaria.

(Kjeld Neubert | Euractiv.de)

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