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Cablegate: Pro-U.S. Rheinland-Pfalz Leader Kurt Beck Remains

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

UNCLAS FRANKFURT 002367

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR GM
SUBJECT: Pro-U.S. Rheinland-Pfalz Leader Kurt Beck Remains
Strong Despite Faltering Social Democrats

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Rheinland-Pfalz Minister-President since
1994, Kurt Beck (SPD/Social Democratic) is one of the most
popular leaders in the traditionally conservative state's
60-year history. Economic indices in R-P remain relatively
strong at a time of national stagnation, and Beck's coalition
government with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) is the
only one of its kind in Germany. Beck supports Chancellor
Schroeder and the government's Agenda 2010 economic reform
package and consistently takes a more pro-U.S. stance than
many others in the SPD. Well-informed insiders claim Beck
has no national political ambitions. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Traditionally a conservative state (and home of
former Christian Democratic (CDU) Chancellor Helmut Kohl),
Rheinland-Pfalz voters elected Beck as Minister-President
in 1994 and re-elected him in 1996 and 2001. Beck's
moderate and consensus-oriented approach has garnered him
considerable support within the CDU opposition as well as
his own party. Beck spoke out in support of U.S. forces
during the war in Iraq and has tried to improve commercial
ties with the U.S., particularly with R-P's sister-state
South Carolina.

3. (U) Although the SPD is currently not polling well in
R-P (a reflection of nationwide trends), Beck retains a
high personal approval rating in contrast to Christian
Democrat opposition leader Christoph Boehr indeed, Beck
is regarded as the most popular SPD Minister-President
nationwide. Beck's recent election as SPD deputy chairman
fueled speculation that he might have a future at the
national level. Beck is an important stalwart for
Chancellor Schroeder in predominantly conservative SW
Germany. The SPD-FDP coalition in R-P also appeals to a
chancellor looking for bipartisan support for economic
reforms.

4. (SBU) Observers, however, see a move to the national
level as unlikely. Mainz University's Dr. Juergen Falter
asserts that Beck is too provincial to have a future in
Berlin. In Falter's opinion, Beck's professional
background -- he is trained as an electrician, with limited
academic or university experience could affect his
chances for a ministerial portfolio at the national level
(although it strengthens his "working-man" appeal for many
in the mostly-rural Rheinland-Pfalz). Falter cites as a
further caveat other popular politicians from R-P who have
tried to become national figures and failed, most notably
former R-P Minister-President Rudolf Scharping (SPD) and R-
P FDP head Rainer Bruderle (although at least one other
- former chancellor Helmut Kohl - succeeded).

.

5. (SBU) Beck's press spokesperson, Monika Fuhr, confided
to us that Beck sees his future in R-P. She maintains that
Beck himself never sought a national party position but
yielded to pressure from the R-P SPD to build stronger
linkages between Rheinland-Pfalz and decision-makers in
Berlin. Fuhr says that Beck remains committed to
Rheinland-Pfalz and has no interest in assuming a position
in the national government.

6. (SBU) Although Beck seldom comments on national
politics, his new position as deputy party chair ties him
more closely to the national SPD and could make
him more vulnerable to increasing dissatisfaction with
Schroeder's administration. Coalition partner FDP also has
mixed feelings about the M-P's increased responsibilities
and fears it could tarnish the R-P coalition's solid
reputation.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Beck's moderate views and pro-U.S. stance
have made him a valuable local partner for the USG on a
number of issues, and his support will facilitate smooth
implementation of upcoming force restructuring within
Rheinland-Pfalz, which hosts 24,700 active-duty U.S.
troops. Although his new position with the national SPD
could bring more fire his way on economic and reform
issues, Beck has shown remarkable resiliency in his eight
years as Minister-President and, given the lack of a
credible challenger from the CDU opposition or within his
own party, he likely will continue to hold the reins of
power in Rheinland-Pfalz until the 2006 elections and
beyond. END COMMENT.

BODDE

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