Cablegate: Hesse Spd Self-Destructs As Minority Government Attempt

DE RUEHFT #3300 3091255
O 041255Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Hesse SPD Self-Destructs as Minority Government Attempt

REF: Frankfurt 2701; Frankfurt 2853

Sensitive but unclassified; not for internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: Three Hesse SPD parliamentarians torpedoed state
party leader Andrea Ypsilanti's plan for an SPD-Green minority
government with the support of The Left. The last-minute defections
weaken the SPD as it strains to show party unity in an upcoming
election year. The CDU stays in power for now in Hesse and new
elections in the coming months appear likely, which will in all most
probably be disastrous for the SPD as it attempts to recover from
its unpopular power grab and the devastating back-stabbing in its
ranks. SPD national Chairperson Franz Muentefering summed it up
cogently when he told the Tagesspiegel November 3, "For my party,
what happened is not good." End Summary.

Dissenters Bring Down Minority Government Attempt
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) The three dissenters (joined by one who had expressed her
dissent early on in March, 2008) said their last-minute change of
heart was due to a crisis of conscience on cooperating with the Left
Party, which they argued in part speaks for extreme-left ideas and
the ideology of the former GDR. The state parliament was scheduled
to vote on the election of the SPD-Green government November 4, but
the defections have left the SPD, Greens and Left short three votes
of a needed majority. Coming two days after delegates at a SPD
state convention had approved the government coalition agreement by
95.8%, the defections were an extreme and unexpected shock that
leave its future under Chairperson Andrea Ypsilanti unclear.
Muentefering and party Chancellor candidate FM Frank-Walter
Steinmeier were never fans of Ypsilanti's plan, assessing that it
could hurt the national party in an election year.

3. (U) The failed attempt to form a government was the second for
the SPD since the January 2008 election. The decision of the three
provoked strong outrage within the party as it came so late in the
process and went against the wishes of a large majority of party
members. Muentefering also spoke out against the defections saying
the party board was shocked and indignant. Leaving aside his
concerns about Ypsilanti's course, he said he found it strange and
not credible that the three parliamentarians discovered their
conscience one day before the actual vote.

Aftermath: SPD Down, CDU on the Rebound

4. (SBU) New elections appear to be the only way out of Hesse's
current political deadlock. The Greens, now burned by their
experience with the SPD, may vote along with the CDU and FDP to call
for one as early as November 18. A new election would have to take
place in two months. The results would probably be disastrous for
the SPD, as the minority government attempt was unpopular among the
electorate and the party in-fighting has further damaged its image.
In a September poll, the SPD stood at 28% (down 9% from election
night), while the CDU (39%) and FDP (12%) were seemingly in shooting
distance of a majority. (Comment: Such weak results so close before
national elections (September 27, 2009) could erode the SPD's
standing in the polls, which had finally stabilized and even
improved slightly after the September change in leadership. End

5. (U) Ypsilanti has so far made no indication that she will step
down as chairperson, but a power struggle within the SPD appears
likely given the recent events. While the four dissenters probably
will not have much of a future within the party and may face
disciplinary action, a more moderate, fresh figure would seemingly
give the SPD better chances in an election.

6. (SBU) Comment: If state politics are Germany's political
laboratory, the Hesse SPD's botched experiment has revealed the
fissures between the party's right and left wings as it copes with
the challenge of the Left Party. This incident will heighten the
exasperation of the national leadership with the SPD's inability to
project an image of being calm, disciplined and in-control. This
will be a key task in 2009. Meanwhile, Hesse Minister President
Roland Koch has proven once again to be a cat with nine lives as he
emerges the winner, standing by and watching Ypsilanti, his main
rival, not only fail to unseat him but be destroyed politically by
dissent within her own party.

7. This cable was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

© Scoop Media

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