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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05FRANKFURT8530
2005-11-25 16:06:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Consulate Frankfurt
Cable title:  

Upcoming Elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rheinland-

Tags:   PGOV  GM 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 FRANKFURT 008530 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV GM
SUBJECT: Upcoming Elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rheinland-
Pfalz

REF: a) Berlin 3671, b) 04 Frankfurt 5551

Sensitive but unclassified; not for internet distribution.



1. (U) SUMMARY: Voters in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz
will go to the polls in March, the first state election test for
the "grand coalition" government in Berlin. Most observers
expect that both state governments will win reelection.
Rheinland-Pfalz Minister-President (M-P) Kurt Beck (SPD/Social
Democrats) has fared well despite the party's turmoil at the
national level. Baden-Wuerttemberg SPD challenger Ute Vogt, in
contrast, has come under heavy fire for her role in the
resignation of former national SPD chairman Franz Muentefering
(ref A). END SUMMARY.



--------------------------

--
B-W CDU/FDP Coalition Confident of Re-Election


--------------------------

--



2. (SBU) For Baden-Wuerttemberg (B-W) Minister-President Guenther
Oettinger (CDU/Christian Democrats) -- who took office in April
2005 -- the March elections will be his first important test.
Political observers say that the state's present CDU/FDP (Free
Democrat) coalition is likely to win re-election. Both CDU and
FDP representatives have told us that by March, the electorate
will not yet feel the full effects of painful reforms on the
national level, limiting the potential protest vote against the
CDU. Moreover, with a grand coalition in Berlin, SPD candidates
will be constrained in attacking the CDU-led state government.



3. (SBU) The state's FDP leadership, encouraged by their strong
showing in the national elections, are confident they can repeat
their third-place showing. The party has overcome last year's
leadership crisis when both FDP state ministers had to resign in
a corruption scandal (ref B). The FDP's new standard-bearer,
Justice Minister Ulrich Goll, is increasingly popular. FDP
General Manager Olaf Bentlage told us that after the election,
Goll will claim a more influential portfolio such as interior or
education.



--------------------------



--------------------------


B-W SPD Falls Further Behind; Greens Consider New Partners


--------------------------



--------------------------





4. (SBU) The Baden-Wuerttemberg SPD -- seldom a leading force
within that conservative state (it trailed the CDU by 12 points
in 2001) -- has fallen further behind as a result of Vogt's
controversial role at the national party. During the recent SPD
leadership quarrels, Ute Vogt voted for left-wing candidate
Andrea Nahles (whose nomination to be Secretary-General prompted
Muentefering to resign as party chairman). Afterwards, Vogt
pleaded publicly that "if I had known the consequences, I would
have decided otherwise." Vogt's perceived waffling angered state

caucus members, two of whom told a Consulate representative that
the party would have ousted Vogt if it did not face an election
in five months. M-P Oettinger and others openly questioned
Vogt's leadership qualifications. While Social Democrats are
busy with damage control, the pragmatic state Greens have again
signaled that they would consider a coalition with the B-W CDU
(if the CDU and FDP do not win a majority). Leading Green
politicians say privately that they are convinced a broad-based
coalition would work under the liberal-leaning Oettinger.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Rheinland-Pfalz: M-P Beck Stands Tall in Berlin Crisis


--------------------------



--------------------------





5. (SBU) The recent leadership turmoil within the national SPD
has had positive repercussions for Rheinland-Pfalz (R-P) Minister-
President Kurt Beck, who also serves as a deputy party chairman
at the national level. In coalition negotiations and in the wake
of Muentefering's resignation, Beck emerged as a prominent party
figure nationally. In Karlsruhe, the national party elected him
"first" deputy chairman with an impressive 92.2% of the vote. At
the November 12 state convention in Ludwigshafen, Beck received
99.5% as standard-bearer for state elections. Beck is popular
and leads the only SPD/FDP coalition in Germany; both SPD and FDP
representatives are upbeat regarding their accomplishments and
the functioning of their coalition. The FDP are likely to remain
in coalition with the Social Democrats, according to observers. A
new obstacle for Beck will be the emergence of the Left Party
(which polled 5.6 percent state-wide in September Bundestag
elections).



6. (SBU) The R-P Christian Democrats enter the campaign with
state and caucus chairman Christoph Boehr again as standard-
bearer (following internal party wrangling in which no serious
challenger emerged). In contrast to Beck's high approval rating,
Boehr has limited popularity within the party and electorate
even in relatively conservative Rheinland-Pfalz (in Bundestag
elections this year, the CDU edged out the SPD within the state).
To win in March, Boehr will need to disprove critics who say he
lacks the charisma to edge out Beck.


7. (SBU) The R-P Greens enter the campaign from a weakened
position -- having lost power at the national level and facing
competition from the new Left Party -- and see little prospect of
outrunning the FDP or entering state government. M-P Beck has
never campaigned for a red-green coalition at the state level, an
additional handicap. The party's official goal is to match the
6.9 percent it received in 2001 (the Greens' best showing ever),
but a state party leader confided that Greens would be happy to
poll six percent.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





8. (SBU) The March elections may serve as a first, albeit very
early, barometer for the grand coalition. Re-election in
Rheinland-Pfalz would further strengthen M-P Beck's national
standing. In B-W, a strong CDU performance could enable M-P
Oettinger to step out of the shadow of his long-serving
predecessor Erwin Teufel and gain national visibility. END
COMMENT.

BODDE