At first glance, the election call that the FDP intends to adopt at its party congress this weekend looks very determined.

It almost sounds like exclusionary disease.

"We are ruling out an increase in the tax burden," it says there, for example, or: "We are therefore also ruling out the relaxation of the debt brake in the constitution."

On closer inspection, however, the radicality of these sentences disappears considerably.

It's a bit like the “democratic socialism” that the SPD still has in its basic program.

There will be no constitutional amendment anyway, and that a Finance Minister Lindner would also be willing to stretch the rules considerably, he has long since indicated in interviews.

And even the no to higher burdens is just the shrunken form of the call for a completely new tax system ("simple, low, fair") with which the party achieved its highest electoral triumph twelve years ago - only to crash all the more violently afterwards.

Top topics refugees and corona

As a mere tax reduction party, Lindner never wanted to position the FDP again. But when the going gets tough, he still depends on the classic business clientele of entrepreneurs and freelancers - which is why the tax and debt issue is once again at the top of the election manifesto.

This is somewhat ironic insofar as the Free Democrats owe their resurgence under Lindner to two extra-economic factors.

On the refugee issue, the party leader collected a considerable number of those voters who were critical of government policy without wanting to join the AfD;

that led to the election success of 2017 - and contributed to the failure of the Jamaica negotiations, when the negotiators also fell out over family reunification for refugees.

After that, for three years it seemed as if the party had already run down again with its defiant refusal to govern.

Entrepreneurs and managers in particular resented the FDP for letting the SPD take precedence over government with their expensive wishes.

Lindner benefited from Lockdown and Laschet

Then came Corona, more precisely: the particularly unpleasant second phase of the pandemic. Lindner repeated the trick from the refugee days. He criticized the lockdown measures without falling into the tone of a lateral thinker. This worked, especially as there was considerable displeasure with some restrictions in company circles - at least more than was externally visible in official association communications.

Then there was the Laschet effect, which is particularly curious from an economic point of view. After all, the Union candidate at home in North Rhine-Westphalia had always presented himself as an industry friend and emphasized the harmonious interaction with the FDP. Nevertheless, economically-oriented voters in particular seemed to want to play it safe and vote for Lindner in order to strengthen their interests in the expected Jamaica coalition and not have to vote for the clumsy Laschet.

That could now have the exact opposite effect: Also because the FDP steals so many voters away from the Union, social democracy could emerge victorious in the end with Olaf Scholz. In order not to jeopardize his loan votes, Lindner may ask the Greens so often to vote for a loser Laschet: That would not be particularly realistic if the SPD had a clear lead.

The won back supporters could experience just what deterred them from the election after the election: that Lindner is entering an alliance with the SPD and the Greens to prevent worse, i.e. another grand coalition or - horribile dictu - even a red -red-green left alliance. The line of argument has already been mapped out with this weekend's election call. The FDP boss will not be at a loss for words that sound resolute.

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