Cablegate: Right-Wing Parties in Nrw Elections Full of Sound and Fury

DE RUEHDF #0032/01 2311604
R 191604Z AUG 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

C. C) BERLIN 967

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1. (U) Summary: While right-wing extremist parties are likely
to make gains in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state-wide
municipal elections at the end of August, their electoral
success will actually be meager in the grand scheme of things.
Despite historic difficulty in the region, extreme right parties
in NRW, including The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD)
and Pro Koeln, a Cologne-based anti-immigration group, gained a
foothold in the 2004 municipal elections by winning seats in a
handful of city councils. In the past five years, Pro Koeln has
expanded to a state-wide party named Pro NRW and hopes to gain
seats in other city councils and county legislatures. Even with
some gains at the local level, however, none of the right-wing
extremist parties are expected to cross the 5-percent electoral
threshold to gain representation in the state parliament
following next year's NRW Landtag elections. End Summary.

Right-Wing Extremism in NRW Traditionally Weak

--------------------------------------------- ------------------

2. (U) Right-wing parties have traditionally been unable to
establish a power-base in NRW, where the SPD has historically
dominated the cities and urban counties in the heavily
industrialized Ruhr area, and the CDU has had a strong position
in the rural counties and in cities outside the Ruhr. In
addition to being the most populous state in Germany (22 percent
of Germany's population lives here), NRW has the largest Muslim
and Turkish populations in Germany, making the state a potential
hotbed for xenophobic violence and right-wing politics. In
absolute terms, NRW had the highest number of right-wing
extremist violent crimes (165) in 2008 of all 16 German states.
In actuality, however, with 0.92 of such incidents per 100,000
inhabitants, NRW ranks much lower (11th place), far behind
states like Saxony-Anhalt (4.15), Saxony (2.99), Brandenburg
(2.80), Thuringia (2.80) and others.

3. (U) Even though a number of smaller right-wing populist
parties compete in the upcoming local elections in NRW, Pro
NRW/Pro Koeln and the NPD are the only right-wing parties likely
to win seats in city and county councils. Both parties are
nationalist and include anti-Islam positions in their party
platforms, but their support comes from different voter groups.
Pro NRW/Pro Koeln, while emphasizing its anti-immigrant and
anti-Islam stance, has worked to distance itself from the
neo-Nazi associations of the NPD, although the NPD also claims
that it does not endorse National Socialism.

4. (U) State electoral rules will also play a role in the
expected limited success of small parties in the upcoming
municipal elections in NRW. Unlike in state parliament
elections where parties must cross an electoral threshold of 5
percent of the popular vote to win seats, in NRW parties are not
restricted by this stipulation in municipal elections. The
5-percent threshold has kept parties like the NPD out of the
state parliament, meaning they have concentrated their efforts
on elections where there are no thresholds.

NPD in NRW Under Observation


5. (U) The NPD has been designated as a right-wing extremist
party by the NRW Interior Ministry, and is monitored by the
State Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC).
Founded in 1964, the NPD advocates against parliamentary
democracy, supports pan-Germanism, and is considered by the OPC
to be racist, anti-Semitic, revisionist, and to endorse the same
elements as the National Socialist movement. Unlike in several
West German states in the 1960s and several East German states
more recently, the NPD has never come close to winning seats in
the NRW state legislature. In the 2004 state-wide municipal
elections, however, the NPD gained a seat in every city/county
council election in which it ran a candidate. Currently, the
NPD holds seats on the city councils of Dortmund and
Moenchengladbach, and in the councils for the counties of
Ennepe-Ruhr, Heinsberg, Maerkischer Kreis, and Rhein-Sieg. (NRW

DUSSELDORF 00000032 002.2 OF 002

is comprised of 396 cities and communities and 31 counties.) In
2009, the NPD is expected to run in three times as many
communities and counties as it did in 2004, but the party is far
from reaching its stated goal of having candidates running in
every county and large city. The NPD has only 780 party members
in NRW, and they tend to be concentrated in large cities or in
the urban counties.

6. (U) An expert on right-wing extremism for the NRW Interior
Ministry explained to Pol/Econ Staff last week that part of the
NPD's difficulties in NRW is it so far has been unable to
connect to the regional neo-Nazi and skinhead scene as it has
done in states in the former East Germany. This lack of
connection eliminates a large part of the traditional NPD voting
bloc, and hinders its ability to bring in new members. The NPD
has also publicly distanced itself from those groups, especially
by limiting the number of public protests. Despite this
problem, the NPD has almost doubled its public activities in the
state. In 2008, the NPD organized 125 public events, an
increase from just 68 in 2007.

Anti-Islam Party Pro NRW/Pro Koeln

--------------------------------------------- -

7. (U) Pro NRW was formally founded in 2007 as an extension of
Pro Koeln, which gained prominence in Cologne by opposing the
planned construction of a "mega-mosque" in Cologne-Ehrenfeld
(reftel A). Pro NRW pursues a right-wing populist agenda,
opposing what it refers to as "the Islamization of Europe." In
May 2009 and last year (reftel B), Pro Koeln organized an
"Anti-Islamization Congress" in Cologne, which was attended by
right-wing parties from the Czech Republic and Belgium as well.
Pro Koeln has been monitored by the OPC since 2004, and Pro NRW
has been monitored by extension since its inception. The
leadership of the organizations is essentially identical, and
their platforms, other than opposition to the specific mosque,
are identical. Party leaders Markus Beisicht, the Pro Koeln
candidate for Lord Mayor of Koeln, and Manfred Rouhs both trace
their roots to the Republikaner (REP), a right-wing political
party that the OPC stopped monitoring in 2006, after a power
struggle led the more radical right-wing elements to quit the

8. (U) Pro NRW claims to be running candidates in 44 different
local or municipal elections this fall. A source within the OPC
explained that these numbers are deceptive, however, in that Pro
NRW has used voter names from their anti-mosque petition on
their candidate list without asking permission. Additionally,
Pro NRW has exaggerated the districts or constituencies that
their candidates seek to represent. The source further explained
that persons who have dropped their candidacies, a particularly
likely scenario with pro NRW candidates as the party requires
them to finance their own campaigns, are still counted in Pro
NRW's numbers.

Comment: Signifying Little, Politically

--------------------------------------------- ----

9. (SBU) The OPC source expects the NPD to pick up a couple of
more seats in local councils in the August 30 election, but
definitely not enough seats to wield any real legislative power.
Furthermore, this is unlikely to lead to electoral success in
the state parliament elections in 2010. Likely results for Pro
Koeln are harder to pin down because of their consistent
numbers-inflation. They are certainly a less powerful party than
the OPC thought them to be a year ago, and while they will
likely also gain seats, it is doubtful that it will be a major
shift in power.

10. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

© Scoop Media

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