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Cablegate: Cdu Likely to Win Hesse Elections, Perhaps With

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS FRANKFURT 000682

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV GM
SUBJECT: CDU LIKELY TO WIN HESSE ELECTIONS, PERHAPS WITH
ABSOLUTE MAJORITY


1. (SBU) Summary: Hesse will see a clear victory for
Minister-President Roland Koch and the governing CDU-FDP
coalition in state elections February 2. All major opinion
polls put the CDU ahead of the SPD by up to 18 percentage
points. The dramatic erosion of support for the SPD is
attributed to continuing voter disillusion with the
Schroeder government. On the state level, the SPD's
candidate Gerhard Boekel is seen as too colorless a
personality to beat Minister-President Koch. The Hesse SPD
has started a petition against war in Iraq, led more by
campaign managers than Boekel. The Green Party will be a
secondary winner, gaining four percent. The FDP will most
likely make it over the 5 percent threshold to remain in the
State Parliament. End summary.

Opinion Polls Put CDU Significantly Ahead
-----------------------------------------

2. (U) Recent opinion polls predict that the CDU will win,
possibly with an absolute majority. The CDU has never
before won two consecutive elections in Hesse. Compared to
its 1999 result (43.4 percent) the CDU may gain three to
seven percent. The latter would mean an absolute majority,
even with four parties represented in the State Parliament
(Landtag). This would be almost unprecedented in postwar
German history. The CDU could lose is if the FDP does not
make it over the 5 percent threshold and the CDU fails to
get an absolute majority. Major polls by Infratest dimap,
Forsa and Forschungsgruppe Wahlen predict the possibility of
this scenario is shrinking.

3. (SBU) The SPD, which received 39.3 percent of the vote
in 1999, is on a downward trend. It may lose seven to eight
percent according to polls. This would be an unprecedented
loss. The Hesse SPD is still in bad shape: it never really
recovered from its 1999 defeat. Though its lead candidate
Gerhard Boekel has increased in popularity, he is often
described by the media as "colorless" in comparison with
Koch and not viewed as a strong enough personality to beat
the Minister-President. The Greens may win three to four
percent above their 1999 election result of 7.2 percent,
largely on the issue of opposition to Frankfurt airport
expansion. All polls predict the Green party may get its
best result ever. (Note: The Hesse Greens are Foreign
Minister Fischer's home party.) The FDP will get five
percent and may even gain one or two percent. Up to a third
of voters say they are still undecided, mostly previous SPD
voters.

The Iraq Issue
--------------

4. (SBU) The Hesse SPD is using the waning days of the
campaign to focus on Iraq. Though Boekel hesitates to use
the issue aggressively, campaign managers are pushing it.
The Hesse SPD is collecting signatures at campaign stands,
trying to copy Koch's successful petition campaign in 1999
against dual citizenship. The SPD in north Hesse claims to
have collected 40,000 signatures in one day alone. The CDU
remains concerned about war in Iraq before February 2. The
Hesse CDU's election loss in 1991 is still widely attributed
to the Gulf War starting shortly before election day and the
subsequent protest vote against the Kohl administration's
position. Thus far, polls indicate that continuing voter
unhappiness with the Schroeder administration outweighs
concerns about Iraq in Hesse's upcoming elections.

BODDE

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