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Cablegate: Hamburg Elections: Cdu Ponders Coalition Options; Left Party

VZCZCXRO6558
PP RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAG #0007/01 0561659
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251659Z FEB 08
FM AMCONSUL HAMBURG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0218
INFO RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0196
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHAG/AMCONSUL HAMBURG 0238

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HAMBURG 000007

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/AGS
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL GM
SUBJECT: HAMBURG ELECTIONS: CDU PONDERS COALITION OPTIONS; LEFT PARTY
TO ENTER PARLIAMENT

REF: A. A) HAMBURG 005
B. B) FRANKFURT 0447
C. C) BERLIN 0137
D. D) 07 HAMBURG 068
E. E) 07 HAMBURG 065

HAMBURG 00000007 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) SUMMARY: The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won
decisively in the Hamburg state elections February 24. However,
it lost its absolute majority and will now have to form a
government with either the Social Democratic Party (SPD) or the
Greens. If the CDU and Greens form a coalition government, it
would be the first CDU-Greens government on the state level and
could possibly serve as a model for a future national coalition.
The SPD gained three points over the last election four years
ago but did not win enough votes to form its desired coalition
with the Greens; and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) did not
overcome the five percent hurdle to enter the parliament at all.
Only one of the political parties in Hamburg reached its
campaign goal: the Left Party continued its successful growth in
western states, entering the fourth western state parliament in
less than one year. Most politicians appeared to be relieved
that a political stalemate, like in Hesse, would not plague
Hamburg as well. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------
CDU: Ahead, But No Clear Partner
--------------------------------

2 (U) The CDU preserved its position as the strongest party in
this traditionally SPD city-state. Mayor Ole von Beust (CDU)
will now have to choose a coalition partner from the SPD or
Greens in order to build a government. He has stated that he
will approach both parties; the SPD and Greens have said they
are willing to talk. None of the parties, however, expect
negotiations to run smoothly. An official count is not expected
until February 27, but the CDU is predicted to end up with 42.6
percent (-4.6 percentage points compared to 2004; 56
parliamentary seats), the SPD with 34.1 percent (45 seats, up
3.6 percentage points), the Greens with 9.6 percent (12 seats,
down 2.7 percentage points), the Left Part with 6.4 percent
(eight seats), and the FDP with 4.7 percent (up 1.7 percentage
points over 2004).

3. (SBU) Hamburg could become the first German state with a
CDU-Greens (Black-Green) government. A potential Black-Green
coalition in Hamburg could later be replicated at the national
level (the first state-level SPD-Greens coalition took office in
Hesse in 1985, followed by a red-green federal coalition in
1998). ConGen Hamburg's local contacts believe that a "grand
coalition" would be the least preferable option, although the
SPD appears keen to regain its position as a ruling party in
Hamburg. A feeling of fatigue with the national "grand
coalition" and a fear that a local CDU-SPD government would be
incapable of carrying out important reforms are palpable within
the city-state.

4. (SBU) Neighboring Schleswig-Holstein's Minister President
Peter Harry Carstensen (CDU), who also rules with a "grand
coalition," has publicly advocated a Black-Green solution. In
fact, Hamburg itself has experience with Black-Green coalitions.
Two of the city's districts have been governed by Black-Green
coalitions for the past four years. Nevertheless, the gulf
between the CDU and Greens on political issues, such as
education reform, the construction of a brown coal power plant,
and the dredging of the Elbe River, is much greater than that
between the CDU and SPD. While both parties have the go-ahead
from Berlin to negotiate, it may be very difficult for the
Greens to obtain approval from their local membership for a
coalition with the conservatives. An NDR poll from February 25
reported that 40 percent of Hamburg voters would prefer a "grand
coalition," while only 24 percent would like to see a
Black-Green government; 21 percent were in favor of a
SPD-Green-Left coalition.

-------------------------------------
Left Party Draws from SPD and Fringes
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The all-time low voter turnout (62.2 percent)
negatively affected the CDU, SPD, and Greens. The Left Party
did not perform as well as had been predicted by polls, but it
firmly established itself as a credible political force in
another western state. With a voter base composed in great part
of protest voters, about half of Left voters had voted in the
past for small parties that failed to clear the 5 percent
hurdle. One-quarter were previous SPD voters, and a quarter
identified themselves as "unemployed." The Left Party's
emergence in Hamburg is a further indication of the SPD's
identity crisis.


HAMBURG 00000007 002.2 OF 002


6. (SBU) SPD candidate Michael Naumann performed a remarkable
political feat by pulling the party up over three points from
its lowest election outcome in 2004. Despite the SPD's wish to
govern Hamburg again, Naumann made it clear that under no
circumstances would the SPD form a coalition with The Left or
make itself dependent on "toleration" by The Left (this was an
implicit rebuke to SPD National Chairman Kurt Beck, who is
mulling over a "toleration" option for the SPD in Hesse). The
Greens have also ruled out a coalition with the Left. On
election night Naumann commented that the discussion in Hesse
over an SPD-Greens coalition tolerated by the Left Party "was
not helpful" for the Hamburg SPD's election outcome.

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

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