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Cablegate: Bremen State Election - Spd Remains Strong with the Greens

VZCZCXRO5384
RR RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAG #0035/01 1351104
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151104Z MAY 07
FM AMCONSUL HAMBURG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0145
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0134
RUEHAG/AMCONSUL HAMBURG 0164

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HAMBURG 000035

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/AGS
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL GM
SUBJECT: BREMEN STATE ELECTION - SPD REMAINS STRONG WITH THE GREENS
AS CLEAR WINNERS

REF: HAMBURG 031

HAMBURG 00000035 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary. Though Bremen's election gave the current
Social Democratic -Christian Democratic (SPD-CDU) government
enough votes to continue in office, the two parties each lost
votes over 2003. The smaller parties all gained votes, with the
best results scored by the left-of-center Greens and the new
Left Party (Linke). Local factors will primarily drive the
formation of a new coalition by the SPD (the largest party); the
party appears to be leaning toward a coalition with the Greens.
Nationally, the SPD would (unofficially) welcome the end of a
Grand Coalition. However, the shift of voters from the SPD to
other parties, especially the Linke, will be of long-term
concern. End Summary.

Summary of Results
------------------------

2. (U) Bremen's voters turned out in record low numbers (57.8
percent) to elect their state parliament on May 13. The current
government, a grand coalition of Social (SPD) and Christian
(CDU) Democrats suffered a blow, with the SPD down 5.5 percent
over 2003 to 36.8 percent of the vote (33 parliamentary seats)
and the CDU down 4 percent, taking 25.6 percent of the vote and
23 seats. The two remain, however, the first and second biggest
parties in the parliament. The Greens and the Left Party
(Linke) were the main winners in the elections. The Greens took
16.4 percent of the vote (14 seats), up 3.6 percent from 2003.
The Linke's 8.4 percent of the vote secured the party its
first-ever seats (7) in a western German state parliament. The
FDP received 5.9 percent (5 seats) up 1.8 percent from 2003 and
the far-right German Popular Union (Deutsche Volksunion - DVU)
retained its one seat in the state parliament.

A City of the Left
---------------------

3. (U) In discussions with Hamburg's Pol/Econ Off prior to the
elections, Bremen representatives from all parties intoned again
and again how "left" the Bremen electorate was, which over the
years has influenced policy-making by all of the parties in
Germany's smallest state. Indeed, voters in the city-state of
Bremen/Bremerhaven showed their "leftist" leanings at the polls
on May 13. The SPD, which has governed in Bremen since the end
of World War II, continues as the city-state's strongest party
with 36.8 percent of the vote. This number was significantly
down from the 42.3 percent the SPD received in the 2003 state
elections and was not the boost that SPD leadership in Berlin
had hoped to help improve the party's national standing.
However, it was a stronger showing than the 33 percent the party
received in 1995, which led it to form a grand coalition with
the CDU. SPD Mayor Jens Boehrnsen will now have to choose to
continue 12 years of a grand coalition or form a "red-green"
coalition with the Green party. While the numbers do not add up
for a "red-red" coalition, Boehrnsen and national SPD
representatives have made it clear that a coalition with the
Linke would not be considered. Over the next two weeks the SPD
will begin exploratory talks with both the CDU and Greens.

4. (U) The CDU was also "punished" by voters in Sunday's
elections. In post election press, CDU party leaders blame the
poor performance on the SPD's failure to announce whether or not
the grand coalition would be continued. Although in an April 26
poll 54 percent of those asked stated that they favored a
continuation of the SPD-CDU coalition, voters displayed their
displeasure at the grand coalition's performance by turning to
the Greens, the FDP, and the Linke. The Greens have long been a
power in Bremen (they entered a state parliament for the first
time in Bremen in 1979) and on May 13 they obtained their best
results in any state election to date. According to the polling
institute Infratest-dimap, the Greens drew the majority of their
new voters from previous SPD voters. The Greens top candidate,
Karoline Linnert, has claimed that her party's strong turnout is
a mandate for them to be part of a governing coalition. The
left-wing Linke, composed of disgruntled trade unionists, former
SPD members, and members of the ex-Communist PDS, was also a big
winner, entering a "western" state parliament for the first
time. The Linke was able to motivate protest voters as well as
the unemployed and it drew a quarter of its vote from people who
had cast ballots for the SPD in 2003. Its voters indicated that
social justice issues were of high importance and over 91
percent were displeased with the work of the Bremen Senate
(Infratest-dimap). The national Linke invested heavily both
financially and with volunteers in the Bremen elections and the
party may pose a new challenge to the SPD in 2008 elections in
Hamburg and Lower Saxony.

5. (U) All of the smaller parties benefited from the low voter
turn-out, which made it easier for them to overcome the 5
percent hurdle to enter the state parliament. Though not

HAMBURG 00000035 002.2 OF 002


dramatic, both the Liberals (FDP) and far-right German Popular
Union (DVU) slightly increased their share of the vote. The FDP
was able to return to the legislature in caucus strength. The
DVU retained its one seat (acquired because of a quirk in Bremen
law).

Comment
------------

6. (SBU) Comment: It will take several weeks before the SPD
finalizes a coalition agreement with either the CDU or Greens
and its choice could affect federal policy-making. SPD
officials have been dropping hints about shifting to the Greens.
However, the CDU hopes that budgetary concerns will influence
the SPD to opt to maintain the grand coalition in hopes of
receiving budgetary support from the federal government.
Moreover, while Bremen only holds 3 seats in the Bundesrat, the
federal grand coalition would lose the two-thirds majority it
currently holds in the body if the SPD were to select a
"red-green" coalition. In order to pass legislation requiring
two-thirds majority, such as the on-going Federalism Reform II
negotiations through which Bremen hopes to improve its financial
situation (e.g. through tax reforms) or constitutional
amendments, the SPD and CDU would have to convince a state in
which a federal opposition party is in power to vote in favor of
the legislation.

7. (SBU) The more indirect impact of the election - its impact
on the SPD - will not be clear for several weeks. The SPD's
loss of seats can be attributed to a number of local factors -
voter fatigue with a 12-year-old government, persistent high
unemployment, a by-all-accounts uninspiring campaign. However
the loss of voters to other parties of the left, and especially
the Linke's success may also convey a deeper message. An
already insecure SPD may decide it needs to polish its
"socialist" credentials. While Bremen cannot be regarded as a
model for national politics in Germany, its election on May 13
may be a signal of a more contentious future for the national
grand coalition. End Comment.

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

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