BERLIN: Later this year, Angela Merkel may form a new government with a party whose leader says Greece should leave the euro, Russia can keep Crimea and refugees will have to go home.The Free Democrats (FDP), a socially liberal, pro-business party, were long seen as the natural partners of Chancellor Merkel’s conservatives. They ruled in coalition with her mentor, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, for 16 years and were junior partners in Merkel’s second government, from 2009 to 2013.But after crashing out of the German parliament four years ago, the FDP — also known as the Liberals — were forced to reinvent themselves. And the new incarnation, led by an ambitious 38-year-old who preaches an ultra-hard line on Europe, has unsettled the German political establishment, including members of Merkel’s party.Nevertheless, if her conservatives can form a government with the FDP after a Sept. 24 election, Merkel will have little choice but to link up with the party and its young leader Christian Lindner. For her centre-right CDU/CSU, the prospect of reviving an alliance with the party’s historic partner will be hard to resist, especially after four years of a right-left coalition with their longtime rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD).“Merkel’s horror scenario is a narrow majority with the FDP,” said Frank Decker, a political scientist who was Lindner’s thesis adviser at Bonn University. “She would have no choice. She would be condemned to govern with them.” Polls give Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc and the FDP a combined score of roughly 45 percent, just shy of a majority. If they do fall short, the FDP could still enter the government as part of an unwieldy three-way coalition that also includes the Greens.In 2013, after its former leader Guido Westerwelle failed to deliver on his promise of tax cuts, the party scored just 4.8 percent, the first time in the post-war era it failed to make the 5 percent threshold needed to enter parliament. Later this month, it is expected to double its score of four years ago. Lindner, with his banker suits and designer stubble, has almost single-handedly hauled the FDP back from the political wilderness.German media have likened him to French President Emmanuel Macron: the two are just a year apart in age and share a healthy self-esteem. In the FDP’s highly personalised campaign posters, a brooding Lindner is shown in black and white, staring off-camera, like a model from a 1990s Calvin Klein ad. Look beneath the surface however, and there are big differences between Lindner and Macron. The French leader is promising to work with the next German government on an overhaul of the euro zone, introducing a budget and finance minister for the currency bloc. Lindner has dismissed those ideas with an aggressiveness that has surprised even some of his closest allies.If one takes Lindner and the FDP’s campaign manifesto at face value, the party would introduce automatic sanctions for countries that violate EU budget rules, do away with the euro zone’s bailout fund and make it easier for countries to leave the currency. Greece is a favourite target. Two weeks ago, Lindner told a banking conference in Frankfurt that a reintroduction of the drachma would be a boon for the country. “All those who vacation in Mallorca would go to the Greek islands instead,” he said. Martin Lueck, an investment strategist at Blackrock, sees a risk that the euro crisis could return, with Italian borrowing costs spiralling higher, if the FDP makes it into government. FDP officials play down such risks, pointing to moderating influences in the party like members of the European parliament Alexander Graf Lambsdorff and Michael Theurer. Published in Daily Times, September 15th 2017.