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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kinkel Set to Resign His FDP Leadership

COMBINED REPORTS


BONN -- German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, hard hit this week by two more electoral losses for his Free Democrats, or FDP, announced Thursday he would step down as head of the liberal party at its convention in June.


Kinkel told reporters after an urgent meeting of top figures in his Free Democratic Party: "I will not be a candidate at the convention in Mainz.


"This decision is correct for me and for the FDP,'' he said.


"My decision will have no effect on the work of the coalition,'' Kinkel said, referring to Chancellor Helmut Kohl's national government in which the Free Democrats are junior coalition partners.


The Free Democrats failed to make the 5 percent minimum in state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia and Bremen last Sunday and have now been unseated from 11 of Germany's 16 state parliaments. The repeated failures in state elections have left a party with little grass-roots support.


Rank-and-file members, especially the younger ones, have complained that the party attracts few votes because it has no independent image under Kohl's conservative government. The FDP has traditionally been libertarian and pro-business.


Kinkel said he took responsibility for the party's recent poor showing.


"Naturally as party chairman I have responsibility for the situation of the whole party and also for the election results," he said.


Kohl accepted his decision, Kinkel said.


The Free Democrats contribute a crucial 47 parliamentary seats to Kohl's slim majority in parliament. If the party were to become unstable due to tensions between its factions after Kinkel's resignation, parliamentary work could become difficult, though Germany's constitution makes it hard to unseat a government.


Kohl's coalition has 341 seats in the 672-seat Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.


Kinkel, 58, said he will give his full support to whoever is chosen as his successor "no matter who it is.'' Wolfgang Gerhardt, the FDP leader in Hesse state, is considered the front runner to succeed Kinkel.


Kinkel had said in a television appearance Monday that he no intention of resigning the party leadership. But he acknowledged a swift loss of support in the party hierarchy in the past two days.


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