The fact that Armin Laschet still has a chance to become Chancellor after the historic Union debacle in the federal election is above all linked to one person: Christian Lindner. The FDP federal chairman decided early on in the election campaign that Laschet would be at the head of the next federal government. He stayed that way when the Union's polls melted. And even now, since the Union is 1.7 percentage points behind the SPD, which has regained its strength compared to 2017, Lindner gives the impression that a Jamaica coalition of the CDU, the Greens and his FDP is more likely than a red-green-yellow three-party alliance under the Leadership of SPD Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz. The FDP leader not only does that,to keep the political price for traffic light negotiations high - especially since the SPD and Free Democrats are far apart on many social, financial and economic policy points. Lindner is also convinced that the rather balancing Laschet would be well suited to moderate the first multi-color coalition in the federal government.

Pure burger

Political correspondent in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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The 42-year-old Christian Lindner and the 60-year-old Armin Laschet are friends.

We have known and valued each other since the beginning of the black-yellow coalition of Jürgen Rüttgers (CDU), who was Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia from 2005 to 2010.

Laschet was integration minister at the time, Lindner served his state FDP as general secretary.

The relationship between the two is not entirely smooth, as an episode from spring 2017 shows.

In the North Rhine-Westphalian state elections almost four and a half years ago, the CDU and FDP surprisingly won an absolute majority of the seats;

because the Left Party narrowly missed entry into parliament, black and yellow got 100 of the 199 seats.

Although Lindner himself pointed out this possibility during the election campaign, it also qualified it as unlikely.

Lindner's credo at the time was: The FDP should never again be perceived as an unprincipled majority procurer.

That is why he ruled out a traffic light coalition early on in the state election campaign.

"NRW coalition" without noticeable frictions

He expected that, as in the federal government, there would also be a grand coalition in North Rhine-Westphalia. The main goal of the FDP chairman at the time was to bring his party back under the Reichstag dome after four years of extra-parliamentary opposition in the federal election in September 2017. He found the thought that the FDP in Düsseldorf, which had been strengthened to 12.6 percent, would remain in the opposition and that he could go into the 2017 federal election campaign against two large coalitions. Lindner was so busy in this tunnel at the time that he harshly announced on election evening in the face of the black and yellow victory that Armin Laschet was not his preferred coalition partner. Laschet and Lindner then found each other in a hurry. Within a few weeks they negotiated their "NRW coalition",which has since governed without externally perceptible frictions.

At the end of June, the FDP chief came to Düsseldorf specifically to celebrate the fourth “birthday” of the black-and-yellow alliance with the Union chancellor candidate and numerous members of the state parliament at a barbecue on the banks of the Rhine. In view of the polls for Laschet, which were still quite decent at the time, the two did so in the expectation that they would soon rule together in Berlin - with the addition of the Greens, of course. At the end of June, the Union was still clearly ahead in the polls. Even then, however, it was clear that the road to a Jamaica alliance would be long - if only because of the many new, predominantly left-wing members of the Green Group. It could be all the more important that Lindner gets along well with Robert Habeck. The co-chairman of the Greens forged a Jamaica alliance in Schleswig-Holstein in spring 2017.

No interest in a strong chancellor

After the federal election, the FDP and the Greens are now similarly strong central powers in the Federal Republic's changed political coordinate system.

These Central Powers no longer see themselves as small coalition partners, but rather self-confidently insist on pushing through as many of their demands as possible in a coalition.

Despite all the differences, the FDP and Green have one decisive power-political consideration: they are not interested in a strong chancellor.

That is exactly what Laschet is keeping in mind for the time being - even more than the friendship with Lindner.

Because if the conditions are right from the FDP's point of view, Lindner will not ignore traffic lights.

When, in 2017, he focused on returning his party to the Bundestag after the debacle of 2013, Lindner was plagued by the fear that the FDP could primarily be perceived as a functional party.

He has long since overcome this fear.

The liberal dialectician Lindner interprets the fact that the FDP in Rhineland-Palatinate is already co-governing at the second set of traffic lights and that Jamaica in Schleswig-Holstein works as smoothly as black and yellow in North Rhine-Westphalia as evidence of the autonomy and independence he promised.