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Cablegate: Cdu/Fdp Coalition Likely to Continue in Lower Saxony

VZCZCXRO9178
PP RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAG #0001/01 0231641
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231641Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL HAMBURG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0204
INFO RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0187
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHAG/AMCONSUL HAMBURG 0224

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HAMBURG 000001

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/AGS
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL GM
SUBJECT: CDU/FDP COALITION LIKELY TO CONTINUE IN LOWER SAXONY

REF: A. A) BERLIN 086

B. B) BERLIN 022
C. C) 06 HAMBURG 065

HAMBURG 00000001 001.2 OF 002


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

Summary

1. (SBU): Barring surprise political developments, the current
CDU/FDP government will likely prevail in Lower Saxony's state
elections on January 27 due to an apparent desire by Lower
Saxony's voters for a continuation of the status quo. Our
interlocutors agreed that the minimum wage issue will continue
to be a campaign topic up to the Bundestag elections in 2009.
However, the SPD's minimum wage campaign has only translated
into a marginal increase of support for the Lower Saxony SPD.
Meanwhile, there was consensus among our interlocutors that The
Left party would not likely enter parliament. A CDU/FDP victory
would come as good news to Chancellor Merkel's CDU, which faces
difficult state-level election campaigns in Hessen and Hamburg
in January and February. The results of these three early-2008
state elections will be a barometer of the nation's political
mood as the Germany heads to national elections in 2009. END
Summary.

CDU/FDP LIKELY TO WIN

2. (SBU) In polls from Lower Saxony reported on January 18, the
CDU was at 46 percent, the SPD at 33 percent, the Greens at 7
percent, the FDP at 7 percent, and The Left at 5 percent. CDU
State Parliament Caucus Leader David McAllister was confident
that a CDU/FDP coalition with Christian Wulff as Minister
President would continue to govern Lower Saxony. FDP State
Parliament Caucus Leader Philipp Roesler remarked to poloff that
people in Lower Saxony are basically satisfied and are not
calling for change. He was confident that the CDU/FDP
government would be re-elected. He even expressed worries that
the CDU might gain an absolute majority, which would enable it
to govern without a coalition partner. McAllister noted that
there are few notable political issues being discussed and that
the CDU has chosen to focus on Wulff's personal popularity.
Touching on the heated debate on youth delinquency sparked by
Hesse CDU Minister-President Roland Koch, McAllister stated:
"Luckily, Wulff is not Koch," clarifying though that the
difference is more stylistic than substantive. Wulff is
generally regarded to have a more moderate "Merkel-like" style
than the more aggressive Koch.

MINIMUM WAGE DEBATE IS HERE TO STAY

3. (SBU) All party representatives agreed that the minimum wage
issue needed to be resolved, but that ultimately, a decision
could only be reached at the national level. They pointed out
that the issue is here to stay in the political landscape, and
expect it to be a central theme in the 2009 Bundestag elections.
McAllister expressed some relief that the minimum wage had not
become as strong of an issue in Lower Saxony as the CDU had
first feared when the SPD brought it up. The SPD's main
candidate Wolfgang Juettner had announced that the SPD would
collect hundreds of thousands of signatures in support of a
minimum wage, but McAllister had not seen much progress in the
campaign. He suspected that the SPD announced the campaign in
order to prevent The Left party from campaigning with it. SPD
Parliamentary Director Dieter Moehrmann admitted that while 70
percent of those polled are in favor of a minimum wage, the SPD
only gained about two percent since it had become a campaign
issue.

NO FOOTHOLD FOR THE LEFT IN RURAL AREAS

4. (SBU) CDU, SPD, FDP, and Greens agreed that The Left party is
unlikely to reach the five percent hurdle in Lower Saxony
because its message has not resonated in the state's
conservative rural areas. (Note: More than three quarters of
Lower Saxony's approximately eight million inhabitants live in
rural areas. End Note.) Moehrmann pointed out that The Left in
Lower Saxony also lacks a popular front runner and well-known
top candidate. Another factor potentially hurting The Left is
negative press about unprofessional conduct and conflict among
The Left in Bremen, where the party entered parliament in May
2007. Also, the SPD and Greens have firmly distanced themselves
from a potential coalition with or "tolerated" by The Left.

COMMENT

5. (SBU) This election shows that the SPD has little room for
maneuvering between the CDU and The Left party. In our meeting
with Moehrmann on January 11, his first comment was that the
"CDU steals our issues." Further, the SPD's attempt to
politicize the minimum wage debate has not won them the votes
that they hoped it would. Moehrmann ruled out a coalition with

HAMBURG 00000001 002.2 OF 002


The Left at any level as long as Oskar Lafontaine leads the
party. Roesler remarked that perhaps Juettner's most important
achievement in this election will be keeping The Left out of
parliament. Nevertheless, as McAllister commented, a poor
showing by the SPD in the Hessen, Lower Saxony, and Hamburg
elections would have serious ramifications for national SPD
party chairman Kurt Beck, who needs to show electoral success in
order to validate his current focus on economic justice or
populism. END COMMENT.

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

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