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Cablegate: Csu and Spd Fare Poorly in Bavarian Municipal Elections;

VZCZCXRO8633
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHLZ RUEHPOD
DE RUEHMZ #0102 0671448
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071448Z MAR 08
FM AMCONSUL MUNICH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4324
RUCNMEU/EU INTEREST COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MUNICH 000102

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV GM
SUBJECT: CSU AND SPD FARE POORLY IN BAVARIAN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS;
SMALL PARTIES GAIN

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SUMMARY
-------

1. March 2 municipal elections in Bavaria exposed weakness on the
part of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and Social Democratic Party
(SPD), while showing significant gains for the smaller parties. The
CSU's poor showing in larger cities has raised concern among the
CSU's leadership that the party, while in no danger of losing its
absolute majority, may face increasing challenges from a variety of
parties in the 2008 state elections. End summary.

--------------------------
SMALL PARTIES REAL WINNERS
--------------------------

2. While elements of both the CSU and SPD claim to have been the
victors in Bavaria's March 2 municipal elections, the real winners
were the smaller parties, including the Independents (Freie
Waehler), the Greens, and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Compared
with the last municipal elections in 2002, the CSU lost 5.8
percentage points, and the SPD 2.5 percentage points. This
translated into the CSU's worst result in municipal elections since
1966 with the party winning 40.3 percent of the vote, and an SPD low
since 1946 of 22.6 percent across Bavaria. SPD incumbents were
re-elected mayor in several larger cities, with 66.7 percent of the
vote in Munich, 64.2 percent in Nuremberg, and 80.1 percent in
Fuerth.

3. The CSU remained the strongest party overall, doing particularly
well in rural areas, and may ultimately end up winning up to 50 of
71 Landrat (district administrator) positions. (Note: In some
districts and cities, there will be second ballots on March 16,
including major cities such as Augsburg, Regensburg and Wuerzburg.)
The small parties saw an increase in support throughout Bavaria,
particularly the Independents, with 19 percent of the vote, the
Greens at 8.2 percent, and the FDP with 3.8 percent - its second
best communal election result in Bavaria. Voter turnout, however,
dropped below 2002 levels -- in some cities, not even half of the
population went to the polls.

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GLASS HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY?
------------------------------

4. Reactions from the CSU and SPD leadership were mixed. CSU
Chairman Erwin Huber praised the election result as a good omen for
the 2008 state elections, while Minister-President Guenther
Beckstein warned that the CSU had to repair some negative
developments and sharpen its profile in order to defend its absolute
majority. CSU Bundestag Caucus Chairman Peter Ramsauer reportedly
said in a CSU board meeting that the election results were a
"wake-up call." SPD Landtag (state legislature) Caucus Chairman
Franz Maget said the SPD's success in large cities was a
demonstration that the CSU was no longer invincible, while Bavarian
SPD chairman Ludwig Stiegler warned that without an increase in the
SPD's voter base in rural areas, the party would do badly in the
Landtag elections.

5. Bavarian political observers note that despite the lowest crime
rate in over a decade, and perennially low unemployment, many voters
appeared relatively discontent with the status quo this year,
helping explain the weak showing by the larger parties. Smokers
were dissatisfied with Bavaria's rigid smoking ban, medical doctors
were unhappy with health reforms, others complained about
educational and social shortcomings, and in Munich a majority of
citizens have expressed opposition to the CSU-promoted Transrapid
maglev train project.

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COMMENT
-------

6. While municipal elections tend to be a referendum on "grass
roots" issues and don't necessarily translate into broader
implications for state and national voting, the CSU has reason to be
concerned about the strength of the SPD-Greens alliances in large
cities such as Munich and Nuremberg. Recent polls show the CSU
would win about 50 percent of the vote if statewide elections were
held today. Although the CSU is in no danger of losing its absolute
majority in Bavaria, these results are well below the 55-60 percent
Huber and Beckstein hope to see when voters go to the polls in the
2008 Landtag elections.

7. This report has been coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

8. Previous reporting from Munich is available on our SIPRNET
website at www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/munich/ .

NELSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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