Cablegate: Local Elections: Spd Struggles, Cdu Stays Strong

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



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Local Elections: SPD Struggles, CDU Stays Strong


1. SUMMARY: Voters in June 13 communal elections in SW
Germany followed the nation-wide pattern of punishing SPD
candidates in a protest vote against the SPD national
government. The SPD fared poorly in Baden-Wuerttemberg and
Rheinland-Pfalz, and turned in a weak performance that
nonetheless exceeded expectations in Saarland. Greens, Free
Democrats, and independents recorded the largest gains,
while support for the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU)
remained strong throughout the region. Although the CDU's
margin of victory in Saarland (under popular Minister-
President Peter Mueller) was narrower than expected, the CDU
remains the favorite to prevail in state elections there
this September. END SUMMARY.

Baden-Wuerttemberg Independents Move Into First Place
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. Baden-Wuerttemberg communal elections featured minor
losses for the CDU, painful defeats for the SPD, and gains
for the Greens and the FDP. The biggest winners were
independents with 34.4 percent of the vote (up 0.7 pct) --
reflecting the state's regional diversity and traditional
voter willingness to entrust local issues to independents --
followed by Christian Democrats with 32.4 percent (down 1.5
percent). The SPD dug a deeper hole for itself with 18
percent of the vote (down from its 1999 low of 19.9
percent). Greens and Liberals increased their vote shares
to 6.6 and 3.1 percent respectively. The Greens, who only
ran in one third of B-W's communities, had spectacular gains
in the university cities of Tuebingen (where they became the
strongest party), Freiburg, Heidelberg, and Stuttgart. In
Stuttgart, the CDU lost almost six points but defended its
majority and remains optimistic that CDU incumbent Schuster
will be re-elected in October 10 mayoral elections.

Rheinland-Pfalz Popular M-P Beck Unable to Stem SPD Losses
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

3. On the heels of dismal results in balloting for the
European elections (reftel B), Rheinland-Pfalz Social
Democrats suffered their worst ever defeat in communal
elections, receiving only 28.9 percent of the vote (down 7.2
percent). The R-P CDU maintained its position as the
strongest party in the state with 45.2 percent of the vote
(down 0.9 percent). Smaller parties posted gains, with
independent voter groups receiving 11.6 (up four percent),
Greens receiving 7.1 percent (up 2.1 percent), and Free
Democrats polling 6 percent of the vote (up 1.9 percent).
Popular and well-regarded Minister-President Kurt Beck (SPD)
described the results as "a bitter day for the SPD" and
asserted that voters were punishing the party for painful
but necessary reforms at the national level. Meanwhile, CDU
leader Christoph Boehr called the election "a dream result"
for the CDU and an excellent foundation for state elections
in 2006. Boehr announced a special convention at the end of
the year to select the CDU's standard bearer for the 2006

Saarland CDU Victorious, but Rays of Hope for the SPD
--------------------------------------------- ----------

4. The CDU notched a clear victory over the SPD in Saarland,
receiving 46 percent of the vote in contrast to the SPD's 37
percent total. The Greens and Free Democrats posted gains,
with the Greens receiving 5.9 percent (up 1.5 percent) and
the FDP 4.3 percent (up 1.7 percent) respectively. This
year's polling marks only the second time in postwar history
that the CDU has beaten the SPD in Saarland communal
elections. The SPD managed a strong finish in local
elections, with the SPD challenger forcing a popular CDU
incumbent into a second round of voting for mayor of
influential Saarlouis. The SPD leadership hopes that its
unexpectedly strong showing will generate momentum for state
elections in September.

5. COMMENT: Communal election results in SW Germany were
largely consistent with results from concurrent European
elections (ref B) as well as communal contests in other
parts of Germany. The Greens used the elections to expand
their electoral base across the region, particularly in
Baden-Wuerttemberg (a traditional CDU stronghold that has
nonetheless tradionally had a strong Greens party). The
CDU's impressive results in Rheinland-Pfalz strengthened
party head Christoph Boehr's position as putative standard-
bearer against SPD M-P Beck in 2006 state elections.
Although results in Saarland show that the Saar Social
Democrats have managed to sidestep some of the
disappointment with the government in Berlin, the party
still remains a clear underdog against popular and energetic
CDU Minister-President Peter Mueller in September. END


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