Guido Westerwelle

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Guido Westerwelle [German pronunciation: [ˈɡiːdo ˈvɛstɐˌvɛlə]] (born 27 December 1961) is a German liberal politician, currently serving as the Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany in the second cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel (since 28 October 2009). He is the first openly gay person to hold either of those positions. Since 2001, he has been the chairman of the Free Democratic Party of Germany. A lawyer by profession, he has been a Member of Parliament since 1996.

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Early life and education

Guido Westerwelle was born in Bad Honnef in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. After graduating from Gymnasium in 1980, he studied law at the University of Bonn from 1980 to 1987. Following the First and Second State Law Examinations in 1987 and 1991 respectively, he began practicing as an attorney in Bonn in 1991. In 1994, he earned a doctoral degree in law from FernUniversität Hagen. Today, he is frank about his homosexuality and lives together with his partner Michael Mronz. Until 2004 he was not openly gay, although this was fairly common knowledge in the general public.

Career in the FDP

Westerwelle joined the FDP in 1980. He was a founding member of the Junge Liberale, the youth organization of that party, and was its chairman from 1983 to 1988.

Having been a member of the Executive Board of the FDP since 1988, he first gained national prominence in 1994, when he was appointed Secretary General of the party. As such, he was a notable proponent of an unlimited free market economy and took a leading part in the drafting of a new party programme.

In 1996, Westerwelle was first elected a member of the German Bundestag, filling in for Heinz Lanfermann, who had resigned from his seat after entering the Ministry of Justice. In 1998, Westerwelle was re-elected to parliament.

In 2001, he succeeded Wolfgang Gerhardt as party chairman, who however remained chairman of the FDP's parliamentary group. Westerwelle, the youngest party chairman at the time, emphasized economics and education, and espoused a strategy initiated by his deputy Jürgen Möllemann, who as chairman of the North Rhine-Westphalia branch of party, had led his party back into the state parliament, gaining 9.8% of the vote. This strategy, transferred to the federal level, was dubbed Project 18, referring both to the envisioned percentage and the German age of majority. Leading up to the 2002 elections, he positioned his party in equidistance to the major parties and refused to commit his party to a coalition with either the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. He was also declared the FDP's candidate for the office of chancellor. Since the FDP had never claimed such a candicacy (and hasn't done since) and had no chance of attaining it against the two major parties, this move was widely seen as flippant political marketing alongside other moves, such as driving around in a campaign van dubbed Guidomobile, wearing the figure 18 on the soles of his shoes or appearance in the Big Brother TV show.[1] Eventually, the federal elections yielded a slight increase of the FDP's vote from 6.8% to 7.4%. Despite this setback, he was reelected as party chairman in 2003.

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