Friday, May 13, 2011

Philipp Rösler Elected Leader of Germany's Free Democrats

Just the latest sign of dramatic and welcome changes in Germany: Earlier today, the Free Democrats elected Philipp Rösler as its leader, succeeding Guido Westerwelle.

It's a first following a first, if you will. Westerwelle, who will remain as the country's foreign minister, is openly gay. Rösler is straight, but he was born in Vietnam before being adopted by German parents.

The Free Democrats are the junior party in the conservative government of Angela Merkel (who, for the record, is Germany's first female chancellor). Despite a strong economy, they are currently rather embattled in the polls, and it was as a result of their drop in popularity that Westerwelle stepped aside as party leader and the party elected new leadership. Rösler is also switching over from leading the health ministry to heading up the all-important economics, and he will assume from Westerwelle the role of Merkel's vice chancellor.

The fact that the Free Democrats selected the handsome 38-year-old doctor Rösler is just the latest sign of that party's classical liberal (in the European sense) leanings. Now we'll find out if he has the ability to reverse his party's slide in the polls and help buck up the CDU-led coalition government in Berlin.

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