Search

 

Cablegate: German "Independents" Challenge Mainline Parties In

Herbert S Traub 12/16/2008 09:40:21 AM From DB/Inbox: Herbert S Traub

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS MUNICH 00388
CXMUN:
ACTION: POL
INFO: MGT CONS RSO PA FCS CG JIS

DISSEMINATION: POL /1
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: CG: EGNELSON
DRAFTED: POL: HSTRAUB/HKRUEGE
CLEARED: BERLIN/POL: BBERNSTEIN, SOTTO, LEIPZIG/POL: EBACKMAN, FRKFT/POL:

VZCZCMZI256
PP RUEHC RUEKJCS RUCPDOC RUEHZG RUCNMEU RUCNFRG
DE RUEHMZ #0388/01 3471213
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121213Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL MUNICH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4585
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEU/EU INTEREST COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUNICH 000388

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV GM INRB
SUBJECT: GERMAN "INDEPENDENTS" CHALLENGE MAINLINE PARTIES IN
BAVARIA AND COULD AIM HIGHER

REFS: A) Munich 358 and previous, B) Frankfurt 3300, C) Berlin
1623

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) A new sort of German politician, the Freie Waehler
(Independent Voters) (FW), has invaded the parliamentary turf of
establishment parties at the top of Bavarian politics. Their
leadership dreams expansively of its first-ever nationwide campaign
for the European Parliament in June 2009, hoping to replace the
heretofore dominant Christian Social Union (CSU) and, at the same
time, start a revolution in how Germany elects its leaders. The FW,
a self-proclaimed "community of interests" rather than a "party,"
has a recognizable conservative-style approach to governing that
emphasizes "freedom from party ideology," although critics lampoon
them as "free of concrete ideas." Their leadership in Bavaria
believes that grass-roots voter contact with their elected officials
is the future of politics in Germany and that this approach gives
the FW an advantage over the traditional parties that are committed
to a top-down party structure. End Summary.

Emphasizing Individual Competence, Strong Grassroots
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The Consul General and ConGen Munich staff met with the
leadership of the Bavarian Freie Waehler (Independents) on December
7. Hubert Aiwanger (chair of the Bavarian FW since 2006) admitted
that his 21 FW colleagues who won Landtag seats hardly knew each
other before they rendezvoused in November when the Landtag
constituted itself. Voters "liked how the FW emphasized candidate
individuality over party platforms or discipline," according to
Aiwanger's colleagues Tanja Schweiger and Gabriela Pauli -- formerly
a CSU district councilor and nemesis of former Minister President
Edmund Stoiber -- who joined Aiwanger at the table. They observed
that the FW capitalized on 30 years of strong growth at the
municipal and rural level, where the FW holds 40 percent of city
council seats, fourteen of 71 district administrators, and every
third Bavarian mayor's office. Twenty-nine percent of Bavarian
farmers, former guaranteed supporters of the Christian Social Union
(CSU), voted FW in 2008. These FW strengths stand in contrast to
the few thousand Bavarian Free Democratic Party (FDP) members who
enjoy practically no representation in some rural areas in Bavaria.
Aiwanger believes that the FDP (rather than the FW) ended up as the
CSU coalition partner because of the CSU's national ambitions.

Unfazed by the Lack of a Platform
---------------------------------

3. (SBU) While the main German political parties struggle to craft
and project a modern image to which voters can relate (reftels), the
FW advocates "a more American style of politics and politician," as
Aiwanger put it, adding, "We believe the voters want to influence
politics directly." When pressed, he could not specify any policy
or program that concretized the FW philosophy, and, like the voters,
his team seemed unfazed by the FW's lack of a party platform. "The
voters know us and trust us to do our best to solve the real
problems of real people," Schweiger insisted.

4. (SBU) Without an official platform or substantial party
structure, the FW Independents positioned themselves in opposition
to the perceived "autocratic style and haughty tone" of the
"entrenched CSU" in Bavaria, Aiwanger said. The switch for CSU
voters to the FW was made easy since the FW philosophy is basically
conservative, Schweiger explained, adding that the FW emphasizes
"social" values like "personal freedom and helping those unable to
help themselves," which also conforms to a CSU perspective. FW
politicians "feel closest to small and medium-sized business, not to
big companies," Aiwanger added. They are stronger down at the grass
roots and at the lower levels of government, and have not made the
leap to the big leagues, Pauli admitted laughing. She observed that
her FW colleagues still have no office staff, and that "the papers
produced by the Landtag bureaucracy are piling up on our desks."

Dreams of Replacing the CSU in the European Parliament
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. (SBU) Aiwanger said the Independents would caucus in early
February 2009, and thought a majority would, like him, push for a
decision to run nationwide in the European Parliament elections in
June 2009. Currently, other than in Bavaria, the Independents are
particularly powerful in the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg,
Hesse, Thuringia and Saxony. Running nationally would especially
challenge the CSU, and Aiwanger was delighted at the prospects of
stealing so many votes from them in Bavaria that the CSU, confined
to campaigning only in Bavaria, would fail to reach the nationwide
threshold of five percent to enter the European Parliament. The FW
representatives were less sanguine about prospects that the FW would
participate in German national elections in September 2009, since it
would require a more complex organization and a restructuring that
might lead to a split between supporters and opponents of the idea.

6. (SBU) Aiwanger conceded that the FW is challenged to identify
candidates and set up an organized campaign in time. He also has to
face the fact that a significant number of FW adherents, both in
Bavaria and in other States, believe the FW should stick to what it
does best and not run for offices above the municipal level,
according to media reports and comments from FW adherents in the
field.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) The FW leadership in Bavaria believes the time has come to
change the way Germans elect their leaders. They want to replace
the slow-moving, entrenched national parties and overbearing
ideologies with something that they perceive as "more American,"
emphasizing individual personalities who cultivate direct voter
contacts. With thirty years experience at the municipal level, the
challenge will be for the FW to maintain their proud diversity based
on local teams while they strive to maintain coherence in the big
leagues. Before the September 2008 Landtag elections, with the FW
successfully emphasizing "personality," CSU leaders missed the point
when they mocked the FW for its lack of a concrete platform. A
successful FW national campaign for the European Parliament in June
2009 that even replaces the CSU there could reduce the CSU to
nothing more than a regional player and, at the same time, start an
evolutionary change in how Germany elects its leaders. End comment.


8. (U) Consulate General Munich coordinated this report with
Consulates General Frankfurt and Leipzig and Embassy Berlin. Track
Munich reporting at
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Germ any.

NELSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

University of Auckland: Low-Lying Pacific Island Has More Land Above Sea Level Than In 1943

An inhabited island in the low-lying Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands, which are thought to be at risk of being inundated by rising sea levels, has actually increased in size since 1943, scientists say. And the increase in area above sea level is likely ... More>>

APEC : Leaders Issue Kuala Lumpur Declaration

The leaders of the 21 APEC member economies issued the Kuala Lumpur Declaration following the first-ever virtual 27th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting chaired by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. Convening for the first time since the ... More>>

UN: Appeals For $35 Billion To Help World’s ‘Most Vulnerable And Fragile’ In 2021

UNOCHA/HFO A family flees the violence in Idlib, Syria. (file) A record 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection next year, a near- 40 per cent increase on 2020 which is “almost entirely from COVID-19”, the UN’s emergency ... More>>

OHCHR: UN Committee Issues Recommendations To Combat Racial Profiling

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today published its guidance to combat racial profiling, emphasizing, among other issues, the serious risk of algorithmic bias when artificial intelligence (AI) is used in law enforcement. The ... More>>