Guido Westerwelle: Angela Merkel's Unlikely Partner

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Germany's elections on Sept. 27 had more than one victor. Sure, German Chancellor Angela Merkel retained her grip on the post. But Guido Westerwelle, the head of the Free Democrats, was the real winner, becoming the first openly gay leader of a governing German party. Though Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats pulled in one-third of the vote — less than in 2005 — Westerwelle's party captured 14.6% of the ballots, a 4.7% increase that was the largest of any group. Germany will now be ruled by a coalition of the two parties. Following German tradition, Westerwelle is slated to become Germany's next Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor in Merkel's new government.

Fast Facts:
• Was born in Bad Honnef, Germany, near Bonn. Studied law the University of Bonn and went on to practice in the city.

• After joining the Free Democratic Party (FDP) in 1980, Westerwelle later founded its youth organization, the Junge Liberale.

• Has led the Free Democrats since 2001, when he became the youngest leader in the party's history.

• The 47-year-old pushes low taxes and is considered pro-business. Has also advocated for greater civil rights and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

• A trained lawyer, Westerwelle has gained respect for top-notch debating skills.

• Announced his sexual orientation by bringing his partner to Merkel's 50th birthday party in 2004.

• Once appeared on the German version of the reality show Big Brother — the only German politician to have done so.

• In 2002, he traveled the country in a bright yellow bus dubbed the Guidomobile to campaign. That same year, he painted the soles of his shoes in the party's trademark yellow with the number 18 to show what share of the vote he targeted, though he ended up getting just 7.4%.

Quotes By:
"Would you please be so kind, this is a press conference in Germany."
Scolding a BBC reporter for asking a question in English rather than German (The Independent, Sept. 29, 2009)

"It is about the right policies for our country and certainly not about these posts."
On his meeting with Merkel, where they discussed strategy for the new coalition (New York Times, Sept. 28, 2009)

"I can only tell all young gays and lesbians to not be disheartened, if not everything goes their way ... This society is changing for the good in the direction of tolerance and respect ... though slower than I would wish."
In an interview with Berlin's gay magazine, Siegessäule, Sept. 2009

"I burn internally."
On what motivates him (TIME, Sept. 7, 2009)

"With the Guidomobile, I want to do things differently. I want to meet people, talk and have discussions with them. Mr. Schröder and Mr. Stoiber can just keep on traveling in their Lear jets or their state coaches. Our campaign is for everyone."
On why his gaudy 49-ft. motor home is a useful campaign tool (Deutsche Welle, July 27, 2002)

Quotes About:
"We think it's awesome that it has become so normal that an openly gay man becomes Foreign Minister."
Klaus Jetz, the head of the Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany, on the election results (Associated Press, Sept. 29, 2009)

"Mr. Westerwelle will strike a hard bargain when it comes to tax reform."
A prominent conservative legislator, who spoke anonymously about Westerwelle's expectations (New York Times, Sept. 28, 2009)

"He lives for politics."
Hartmut Knüppel, a close friend who has known Westerwelle since they met through a youth wing of the FDP close to 30 years ago (TIME, Sept. 7, 2009)

"Coalitions are, after all, not marriages of love."
Merkel, telling a German broadcaster that ruling Germany by coalition should prove interesting (Deutsche Welle, Sept. 29, 2009)