|07BERLIN1457||2007-07-26 10:56:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Berlin|
VZCZCXRO3842 RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHRL #1457/01 2071056 ZNY CCCCC ZZH R 261056Z JUL 07 FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8896 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BERLIN 001457
1. (C) Summary: The flow of some support from the SPD to
The Left party -- highlighted by the recent defections of
five officials of the Lower Saxony SPD to The Left -- has
increased self-examination within the SPD about its future
direction. Although the top party leadership has vowed to
continue the centrist course, some others in the party
advocate cooperation with The Left. As the CDU builds its
lead over the SPD in the polls, pressure increases on the SPD
to consider a future national coalition with The Left, a
party often dismissed because of its discredited Marxist
views. Our SPD contacts suggest that the party will continue
to debate this issue for the foreseeable future, although the
party's top leadership appears resolutely opposed to
cooperation with The Left. End summary.
2. (C) As the CDU's poll numbers and Chancellor Merkel's
approval rating continue to surge, the SPD's support has
declined, partly because of the emergence of the new Left
party. Among the general population, of those who tell
pollsters they will no longer vote for the SPD, one-third are
undecided, one-third will likely return support to the SPD,
and another third are moving their support in equal measures
to the CDU, The Left, and the Greens. These developments
have prompted speculation in the media and within the party
on how the SPD will respond to its eroding position.
Although CDU members have told Embassy Berlin that they would
not be surprised if the SPD actually moves to the right on
policy matters, most discussion revolves around possible
movement to the left.
SPD Chiefs Oppose Left Alliance
3. (SBU) Party leader Kurt Beck has said the SPD "will not
retreat to the left or the right, but will go our own way"
and continue its centrist Agenda 2010 approach to modernize
the country's social and labor systems. Beck has rejected a
national coalition with The Left because of its unrealistic
prohibition of all foreign military deployments, saying if
The Left party wished an isolationist path "that puts the
economic and social future of the country at stake, then I
see absolutely no basis for cooperation." Urging SPD
parliamentarians to "confront these Pied Pipers,"
parliamentary caucus leader Peter Struck also called The
Left's finance policy "deceptive," as it promises extensive
social welfare benefits without identifying sources of
funding. General Secretary Hubertus Heil also rejected the
antiquated ideas of The Left, whose platform includes an
8-step plan to "overcome capitalism." Most of the SPD party
rank-and-file appear to agree that the discredited ideology
of The Left belongs to the past, not the future.
Some State-level Openness to The Left
4. (SBU) The SPD leadership does not oppose coalitions with
The Left on the state level in the east (as currently exists
in Berlin) where the great majority of The Left's support
lies, but has ruled it out in the west. In the east, Berlin
mayor Klaus Wowereit and others have spoken out against
making such cooperation taboo in the west and on the national
level. The SPD rank-and-file in Thuringia (state elections
in early 2009) is considering cooperation with The Left as a
means to return to government. In the west, despite the
national party leadership's disapproval, some in the SPD are
exploring state-level coalition possibilities with The Left.
Hannelore Kraft, SPD chief of the western state North-Rhine
Westfalia (NRW), for example, maintains that coalition
options should remain a state party decision following the
NRW elections in 2010, thereby leaving the door open to a
future coalition with The Left. In each of the states with
elections in 2008 (Lower Saxony, Hesse, and Hamburg),
however, state-level SPD leaders have ruled out partnership
with The Left. It is, therefore, highly unlikely that there
would be an SPD-The Left coalition in a western state prior
to the 2009 federal parliament elections that could inspire
such cooperation on the national level.
5. (SBU) As for The Left, alliance with the SPD is the only
realistic means for The Left to enter national government.
However, hard-line Marxist ideologues in The Left argue
against, in principle, any kind of participation in
government because of refusal to compromise their values.
Additionally, as long as Oscar Lafontaine remains a top
leader of The Left, his ideological orthodoxy and the
revulsion he evokes within the SPD leadership will be a
barrier to future cooperation.
BERLIN 00001457 002.2 OF 002
6. (C) Comment: Despite the SPD leadership's oft-stated
disdain for The Left, their cooperation with The Left at the
national level cannot be ruled out altogether. If the SPD's
standing in the polls continues to decline into 2009, its
leadership may well conclude that they have no choice but to
entertain coalition with The Left despite serious and
potentially deal-breaking policy differences. But there is a
mathematical deterrent to forming a government with The Left:
the two parties, together, have only been able to muster
about 40 percent of popular support, and this number could
decline further. Leading politicians of both the SPD and CDU
have spoken out against a renewal of the Grand Coalition
after 2009. If it were not renewed, the SPD could pursue a
center-leaning coalition with the Greens and FDP or a
decidedly leftist coalition with the Greens and The Left.
However, the very difficult task of cobbling together a
two-party coalition platform would be made immeasurably more
difficult if a third party were added to the mix. The
complexities of such a coalition might prove too great to
overcome. Our contacts, including SPD party strategists
Stefan Ramge and Volker Meier, expect this discussion to heat
up further as the party heads to its convention in October
2007. End comment.
7. (U) This message has been coordinated with consulates
general Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Leipzig.