Vietnam-born orphan tipped to head German party

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A surgeon who was adopted from a Vietnamese orphanage emerged Monday as the favourite to lead German Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partners after the embattled party head stepped down.

Philipp Roesler, at 38 a rising star in the pro-business Free Democrat party (FDP), is currently health minister in Merkel's cabinet but speculation is rife he will assume the FDP leadership after Guido Westerwelle's resignation.

The Tagesspiegel daily Monday cited party sources as saying the married father of twin girls was set to replace Westerwelle after the FDP suffered a string of regional election disasters.

A heart and chest surgeon by training, Roesler was adopted as a nine-month-old baby by a German couple from an Vietnamese orphanage.

He was brought up by his adoptive father, a career military officer, as the couple split when he was just four.

A Westerwelle protege, Roesler last year steered a disputed set of health reforms through the German parliament that increased the financial burden on patients in an attempt to address healthcare deficits.

Roesler has enjoyed a meteoric political career. He joined the FDP in 1992 and was elected to the Lower Saxony regional parliament in 2003.

Appointed regional minister for the economy in early 2009, Merkel brought him into the federal government after winning a second term in September that year.

Roesler's main rival for the job appeared to be the general secretary of the party, 32-year-old Christian Lindner, as the FDP geared up for a generational shift after 10 years of tumultuous Westerwelle leadership.

But the high-flying Roesler is up for the fight.

Asked once by Stern magazine if he had been bullied because of his Asian appearance, he replied tongue-in-cheek that bullies steered clear "because people always think that all Asians are karate experts."

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