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Cablegate: Hesse Spd's Risky Opening to the Left Creates Opportunity

VZCZCXRO0426
OO RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHLZ
DE RUEHFT #0697 0701448
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 101448Z MAR 08
FM AMCONSUL FRANKFURT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5059
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS FRANKFURT 000697

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/AGS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL GM
SUBJECT: Hesse SPD's Risky Opening to the Left Creates Opportunity
for Opponents

REF: a. Berlin 0265; b. Frankfurt 0447

Sensitive but unclassified; not for internet distribution.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Following weeks of political deadlock in the wake
of the extremely close January 27 state parliamentary elections,
Hesse SPD leader Andrea Ypsilanti has retreated from a controversial
plan to form a minority government with the Greens, tolerated by the
Left Party. The plan foundered on internal resistance within the
SPD. For his part, CDU Minister President Roland Koch announced
March 10 that he would consider stepping aside to pave the way for a
possible CDU-Green-FDP coalition. Ypsilanti's initiative has turned
into an embarrassment for the SPD: it has given the state CDU a new
opening to propose a realistic alternative to an SPD-led coalition,
damaged the SPD's credibility, contributed to a drop in the party's
poll numbers (and those of SPD national chairman Kurt Beck), and
generated public infighting within the SPD. End summary.


------------------
YPSILANTI FAILS...
------------------

2. (SBU) Hesse Social Democratic Party (SPD) Chairwoman Andrea
Ypsilanti was forced on March 7 to reconsider her decision --
announced only three days earlier -- to accept the support of the
Left Party in her bid to become Hesse Minister President when the
new state parliament (Landtag) convenes April 5. The decision to
accept the support of the Left Party broke a major taboo in western
Germany and required de facto permission from SPD national chairman
Kurt Beck as well as an affirmative decision by the SPD National
Board (reftel a). The plan ran aground after Hesse SPD
parliamentarian Dagmar Metzger publicly stated that she would not
vote for Ypsilanti because it would violate the SPD's campaign
promise not to cooperate with the Left Party.

3. (U) Over the weekend, the state SPD met and voted to continue to
back Ypsilanti as party leader, but she announced March 10 that she
would not be a candidate on April 5 after pressure grew within the
national SPD to stop the plan. The Hesse SPD will hold a party
convention on March 29, where the question of a minority government
will again be discussed. At the national level, conservative SPD
leaders have criticized Kurt Beck's support of Ypsilanti and press
reports indicate that some would like to see him step aside as the
party's candidate for the 2009 federal election.

--------------
...KOCH BLINKS
--------------

4. (SBU) In the midst of this SPD drama, Christian Democratic Union
(CDU) Minister President Roland Koch announced March 10 that he
would consider stepping aside if the Greens and the Free Democratic
Party agree to form a so-called "Jamaica" coalition (the name comes
from the party colors of the CDU -- black, FDP -- yellow, and the
Greens, which together form the colors of the Jamaican flag). The
announcement opens the door for CDU cooperation with the Greens, who
have a long-standing antipathy for Koch. One of the few potential
CDU candidates for minister president in this scenario would be
Frankfurt Lord Mayor Petra Roth, whose CDU governs with the Greens
in the city council. She, however, lacks broad support in the Hesse
CDU and is not highly regarded by the Greens. If this option fails,
Roland Koch could stay on in a caretaker government without a
majority in the parliament, leaving open the possibility that the
Hesse SPD could form a minority government at a later date.

5. (SBU) Kai Klose, Secretary General of the Hesse Greens, told Pol
Spec that the Green Party would have to consider the Jamaica option
if Koch resigned. With the Greens and the CDU leaning toward
forming a government in Hamburg, the Hesse Greens would feel
obligated to show political leadership and help ward off the rise of
the Left Party. The Greens would have (reluctantly) gone along with
Ypsilanti's risky plan because of their strong motivation to unseat
Koch, but a Jamaica government would be far less controversial for
the Greens locally and nationally.

6. (SBU) Comment: Ypsilanti's plan to ascend to the top post in
Hesse with the support of the Left Party has turned into a fiasco
for the SPD. Her initiative may not only have cleared the way for
the CDU to take the lead in forming a new government, it has also
put the SPD's credibility into question, contributed to a drop in
the party's and Beck's nationwide poll numbers, and put intra-party
infighting on full public display. Ypsilanti and Beck may pay a
high political price for their botched gambit. End comment.

7. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

POWELL

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