The Free Democrats eye a return to power

NEW posters across Germany seem to be promoting a men’s perfume. Closer inspection reveals that they are advertising the Free Democrats (FDP), a pro-business political party. Slogans such as “impatience is a virtue too” bespangle black-and-white photos of a bestubbled man in an open-necked shirt. Corny they may be, but these images of Christian Lindner tell of a political renewal.

For decades the third force of German politics, the party won a record 14.6% of the national vote in 2009. But over four years in coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) it achieved little. Its promised tax cuts went missing. At the election in 2013 its support fell to 4.8%, meaning that it was ejected from the Bundestag (parliament) for failing to reach the required 5% threshold. Mr Lindner, then 34, inherited a party on the verge of dissolution. Today it is preparing for power once more. How did he do it?

He started by sharpening the party’s identity with the slogan “…

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