Cablegate: Bremen State Election - an End to 12 Years of a Grand

DE RUEHAG #0031/01 1311529
R 111529Z MAY 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) Summary: The upcoming May 13 state elections in
Bremen/Bremerhaven are Germany's only state election in 2007.
With 40 percent in the polls, the Social Democratic Party (SPD)
is likely to be in the comfortable position of being able to
choose its coalition partner. The only viable coalition options
are a renewal of the SPD-led "grand coalition" with the
Christian Democrats (CDU), which has governed Bremen since 1995,
or the formation of a SPD-Greens or "red-green" coalition. The
right-wing extremist German Peoples Union (DVU) will almost
certainly retain its one seat in the Bremen Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Left Party (die Linke) has a realistic chance of
joining a "western" state parliament for the first time, which
will be a major psychological boost for the group. Between May
2 and 9, Hamburg's Pol/Econ Off spoke with SPD, CDU, Greens and
Linke representatives about their perspectives on the upcoming
elections. End Summary.

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The SPD Has the Lead, But With Whom Will They Dance?
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2. (U) The May 4 ZDF Politbarometer poll showed the SPD at 40
percent (they received 42.3 in the 2003 elections), the CDU at
28 percent (29,8 in 2003), the Greens at 14 percent (12.8 in
2003), the Free Democrats (FDP) at 6.0 (4.2 in 2003), the Linke
at 4.5 percent, and the far-right DVU at 4.0 (2.3 percent in
2003). While the city-state of Bremen/Bremerhaven has a five
percent hurdle to enter the state parliament, parties only need
to receive five percent of the vote in either Bremen or
Bremerhaven. According to the May 4 poll, the current SPD
mayor, Jens Boehrnsen, enjoys a significantly higher personal
popularity rating than CDU lead candidate Thomas Roewekamp (54
versus 20 percent). While Bremen voters have not always been
pleased with the performance of the SPD-CDU grand coalition, 54
percent favor its continuation, whereas only 37 percent prefer
an SPD-Green (red-green) government (Infratest Dimap April 26

3. (SBU) Boehrnsen and SPD candidates have been very tight
lipped on which party they will choose as coalition partners.
On May 9, CDU Caucus Leader Hartmut Perschau told Hamburg's
Pol/Econ Off that he believes both Boehrnsen and majorities of
the Bremen SPD board and caucus strongly prefer red-green.
However, Perschau thinks that there is a fifty percent chance
that the SPD will opt again for a grand coalition due to the
greater likelihood of getting budgetary support from the federal
government if the SPD-CDU coalition stays in place. Perschau
thought Boehrnsen might stand up to SPD party and caucus
preferences for the good of the city, as did his predecessor
Henning Scherf, but did question whether Boehrnsen had the
boldness to do so.

4. (SBU) While not directly stating in which direction the SPD
was leaning, SPD Parliamentary Manager Frank Pietrzok said that
the SPD-CDU coalition increasingly lacks the programmatic and
personal base for continuation. He complained that
policy-making within the grand coalition had increasingly turned
into horse trading and debate over administrative matters.
Pietzrok stated that the programmatic commonality on educational
and social issues was higher between the SPD and the Greens than
within the grand coalition. However, he conceded that
large-scale economic/industrial projects (e.g. dredging of the
Weser river, construction of a coal power plant) would be more
controversial between the SPD and the Greens. However, Greens
Parliamentary Manager Felix Holefleisch indicated that such
differences were not insurmountable obstacles to the formation
of a red-green government and that all issues were negotiable.

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Linke Ambition to Gain Foothold in Western Parliaments
--------------------------------------------- --------------

5. (SBU) Linke Party Manager Andreas Hein pointed out that at
the national and local level the Linke were eager to overcome
the five percent hurdle in Bremen in order to enter a "western"
German state parliament for the first time. He said that the
Bremen Linke has received personnel support from Linke party
associations in other German states. However, he stressed that
despite this support, the party did not have enough activists
for the campaign, especially to cover Bremerhaven. According to
Hein, the Bremen Linke has a 150,000 Euro campaign budget drawn
from public campaign support, the national Linke campaign
election fund, and party fees. Party officials in Berlin have
told Embassy representatives that success in Bremen would be a
major boost for the party, improving its chances in big states

HAMBURG 00000031 002.2 OF 002

due to vote in early 2008. While both Pietrzok and Holefleisch
admitted that they may lose some of their voters to the Linke,
the SPD and Greens have ignored the Linke in their campaigning.
Both party officials stated that they have adopted this strategy
in order to prevent lending the Linke legitimacy by recognizing
their issues.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: In our conversations, not only did our SPD
and Greens contacts indicate that Bremen's SPD is leaning
towards a red-green coalition, but even the CDU leadership seems
to think Mayor Boehrnsen and his party would prefer a new
governing partner. Bremen would then be the only state
government in which the Greens are represented again.
Nevertheless, federal considerations might prompt Boehrnsen to
adopt a statesmanlike attitude and continue the grand coalition,
as Bremen could be more likely in receiving urgent financial
support from mostly CDU-led state governments and the national
government. Balancing this is the SPD's growing desire to
demonstrate a strong and independent profile to voters; breaking
up a grand coalition would send just that message. The other
potential national message will come from the success or failure
of the Linke to enter parliament. Success coupled with a strong
SPD outcome in a city that tends to lean to the left could cause
the SPD to look to its left in advance of next year's big state
elections. Independent of coalition outcomes, Bremen will
continue to face the same challenges as in the past: high
unemployment (Note: Bremen's unemployment is at 13 percent and
Bremerhaven's at 19 percent; both are high above the national
average of 9.5 percent. End Note.), the highest per capita debt
in Germany, and an unbalanced budget. END COMMENT.

7. (U) This message has been coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

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