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Cablegate: Hesse Social Democrats Weakened by Infighting As

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 007332

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON PINR GM
SUBJECT: Hesse Social Democrats Weakened by Infighting as
Internal Opposition to Agenda 2010 Grows


Sensitive but unclassified not for internet distribution

REFTEL: A) BERLIN 2737 B) FRANKFURT 4560

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SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Torn by increasing internal opposition to Agenda
2010 reforms and plagued by declining membership, Hesse
Social Democrats have been unable to serve as an effective
foil to the Christian Democrat (CDU) government of Minister-
President Roland Koch. Smaller parties like the Free
Democrats (FDP) and Greens have assumed de facto the
opposition role. A failed attempt last month to corral
left-wing elements of the party threatens to push the SPD
further left and damage its viability as an alternative to
Koch and the CDU. END SUMMARY.


--------------------------------------------- ---------------
Rebellious Hesse Social Democrats Draw Attention From Berlin
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

2. (SBU) Hesse Social Democrats face continued debate over
the ideological direction the party will take to oppose
Minister-President Koch in 2008 elections. Support within
the party is split between left-leaning Hesse SPD leader
Andrea Ypsilanti (a 2004 ConGen Frankfurt IV) and centrist
Landtag caucus leader Juergen Walter. The battleground for
this struggle has been the traditionally left-wing district
of South Hesse (the Hesse SPD is organized in two districts
with a weak state office). A July convention exposed the
rift within the party as Hesse SPD Bundestag member Nina
Hauer came from Berlin to support Walter's proposal to
eliminate the SPD's two district authorities and consolidate
power within the state office. After a heated debate,
delegates defeated the initiative. Many in attendance
rejected Walter's call for reform and instead interpreted
the move (and centrist Hauer's attendance) as a power play
against the leftist elements of the party. One delegate
commented on the failure of the maneuver by noting "if
Berlin has decided to send a proconsul to quiet down a
rebellious SPD district, this is a powerful response."

--------------------------------------------- -------
Hesse SPD Critics of Agenda 2010 Oppose Party Reform
--------------------------------------------- -------

3. (SBU) In their conversations with consulate
representatives, Social Democrat insiders echoed the
observation that Walter's call for reform stems from a
desire to solidify his power base within the party, noting
that party reform itself is not the real issue. Even
supporters of the present structure admit that it hinders
the SPD's ability to campaign effectively. However, they
claim it is inappropriate to start discussing organizational
reform while the party is out of the ruling coalition.
Furthermore, many party followers identify increasingly with
the south Hesse wing's condemnation of Agenda 2010 and feel
that the Hesse SPD platform should reflect this stance an
unlikely proposition under the mooted reorganization.

4. (SBU) The party's internal strife has weakened the
entire Hesse opposition. While Greens and FDP provide
frequent and public criticism of the CDU administration, the
infrequent SPD responses are often late. Hesse papers
instead often point to Greens caucus chief Tarek Al Wazir as
the "real" opposition leader. Although Walter is a strong
speaker who can hold his own in parliamentary debate with
Koch, divisions within the party prevent him from being
truly effective. Financial constraints triggered by
decreasing membership (the South Hesse district has lost
more than twenty-five percent of its members since Koch took
power in 1999) also limit the party's reach.

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COMMENT
-------

5. (SBU) Contacts tell Pol/Econ representatives that Walter
and Hauer's political futures could be in danger as a result
of their failed initiative. Party stalwarts have become
increasingly uncomfortable with the centrist wing of the SPD
in the wake of public fallout from Schroeder's Agenda 2010
reforms, particularly Hartz IV (reftels). Hesse SPD caucus
Social Affairs spokesman Stefan Schaefer-Guembel tells us
the SPD will need to more openly address the "impoverishment
of wide population groups" after Hartz IV goes into effect.
Guembel's opinion reflects the genuine crisis of conscience
many in the party are having about the centrist direction of
the national SPD and Schroeder's program of reform.
Ultimately, the party's prospects will depend on state chair
Ypsilanti's ability to unify a rank-and-file increasingly
unhappy with the Agenda 2010 process. END COMMENT.

PASI

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