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Cablegate: Koch and Cdu Win Absolute Majority in Hesse

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 FRANKFURT 000986

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR EAIR GM
SUBJECT: KOCH AND CDU WIN ABSOLUTE MAJORITY IN HESSE

REF: A) 2002 FRANKFURT 00550; B) FRANKFURT 00682

1. (U) The Hesse CDU, led by Minister President Roland Koch
won the February 2 elections in Hesse with an absolute
majority, a first in the state's postwar history. The SPD
recorded an unprecedented defeat, falling ten percent from
its 1999 results. The Green Party received more than 10
percent, their second best result ever. The FDP got more of
the vote than it had for 30 years, but will no longer be a
part of the state government. The results are as follows,
with the second number showing the change compared with
1999:

CDU: 48.8 percent (+5.4)
SPD: 29.1 percent (-10.3)
Greens: 10.1 percent (+2.9)
FDP: 7.9 percent (+2.8)

The CDU is Happy, But Nobody Else
---------------------------------

2. (SBU) The CDU now has 56 seats in the 110 seat state
parliament, the slimmest possible absolute majority, but an
absolute majority nonetheless. CDU party followers
attribute the unprecedented victory mainly to voter
unhappiness with the national government, but also to
Minister-President Roland Koch's strong performance both in
the campaign and as state leader. The new Koch
administration will certainly use its mandate for bolder CDU
policy initiatives including Frankfurt airport expansion,
which Koch energetically promotes. Some CDU members as well
as Koch himself did not really want an absolute majority,
preferring a coalition with the FDP instead. Koch offered
the possibility to form a coalition, but the FDP leadership
refused, stating it would have no leverage under the current
circumstances.

3. (U) The FDP is now the smallest party in the state and
the mood is mainly negative. State FDP Chairperson and
current Justice Minister Ruth Wagner said bitterly, "We
saved Roland Koch (referring to the CDU financing scandal in
2000) but he reaps the reward." The Green Party recorded
its first state election gain in Germany in five years and
their second best result ever in Hesse. The Hesse Greens
were strong opponents of Frankfurt airport expansion, but
constituencies in the neighborhood of the airport saw only a
slight increase in the Green vote.

The Hesse SPD in Shambles
-------------------------

4. (SBU) The impact of the defeat is enormous within the
state SPD. The party had never received less than 36
percent of the vote in the state's postwar history. Party
Chairman and Caucus Chief Gerhard Boekel stepped down from
both positions following the defeat. The party now faces a
serious power vacuum and infighting over its future
direction. The times are now gone when Hesse could be
considered a swing state. "Hesse is black now," one SPD
member said, referring to the CDU party's color. The SPD
won only two of 55 constituencies and lost in nearly all of
their traditional strongholds. The SPD results were called
"disastrous," "catastrophic," and "apocalyptic." Most SPD
supporters put the blame on Chancellor Schroeder. One
remarked cynically, "We should go and put stickers on our
campaign posters saying `Thank you Gerhard.'" Some said
Boekel did a good job, but his predecessors (Finance
Minister Hans Eichel as State Party Chairman and Armin
Clauss as Caucus Chief) stepped down too late, leaving
Boekel only a year to campaign. Chancellor Schroeder's
lukewarm support for Boekel was also viewed as "too little,
too late." At SPD caucus headquarters in Wiesbaden on
election night, hard feelings towards "those in Berlin" were
barely disguised.

Iraq Did Not Play a Role
------------------------

5. (U) Despite the SPD's last minute scramble with
petitions against a war in Iraq, most observers agree that
the Iraq issue did not play any significant role in the
state elections. In exit polling, only one percent of the
voters claimed to have been influenced by Iraq.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Koch's victory strengthens his position on both
state and national levels. The likelihood of his becoming a
chancellor candidate in 2006 is now much stronger. In
contrast to CDU Party Chair Angela Merkel, Koch can now say
he delivered Hesse for the CDU while Merkel has never won an
election. Koch's biggest obstacle will continue to be his
polarizing personality. (Hesse Broadcasting presented an
exit poll on February 2 showing that Koch is the most
polarizing politician since the late CSU leader and Bavarian
Minister-President Franz Josef Strauss.) Koch no longer has
the FDP to tone down his image and balance his policies. He
will have to find ways to accomplish this on his own. End
comment.

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

BODDE

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