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Cablegate: Candidates Stump Heavily in Germany's Most Populous State

VZCZCXRO4328
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDF #0036/01 2680957
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 250957Z SEP 09
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0232
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHDF/AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF 0248

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSSELDORF 000036

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL GM
SUBJECT: CANDIDATES STUMP HEAVILY IN GERMANY'S MOST POPULOUS STATE
OUTCOME "TOO CLOSE TO CALL

DUSSELDORF 00000036 001.2 OF 002


North Rhine-Westphalia: A Model for Black-Yellow

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1. (U) During the last week of the Bundestag election campaign,
the leaders of all major parties campaigned heavily in North
Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state with
almost 22 percent of the German electorate. With 13.5 million
eligible voters, the state has often played a decisive role in
tipping the balance in favor of one political camp or the other.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Free Democratic Party
(FDP) view NRW, where a successful CDU-FDP coalition ended 39
years of Social Democratic Party (SPD) rule four years ago, as a
key state and model for a new coalition in Berlin. Both parties
kicked off the final phase of their national campaigns with
large rallies in Duesseldorf on September 3 and 6, respectively,
when Chancellor and CDU national chairwoman Merkel and FDP
national chairman Westerwelle were the key-note speakers at
these events. SPD chancellor candidate and Foreign Minister
Steinmeier made numerous campaign appearances in NRW's Ruhr
region, the traditional Social Democratic stronghold and
powerhouse, trying to mobilize the SPD's core constituency.

2. (SBU) Post has discussed the upcoming elections with many NRW
politicians and political observers in the past month and most
describe the campaign as dull and uninteresting. Almost
everyone views the election as too close to call, with some
predicting a continuation of the Grand Coalition and some a
so-called black/yellow coalition (CDU/Christian Social
Union-FDP), but all are cautious, having been burned four years
ago when the polling did not reflect reality. According to the
Greens caucus leader in the NRW Landtag, Sylvia Loehrmann, the
party has a fickle and demanding voter bloc, which will not make
up its mind how to vote until the final days of a campaign. A
leading Greens politician in NRW also expressed skepticism with
FDP leader Westerwelle's credentials to serve as Foreign
Minister in a black/yellow coalition, given his past overblown
assertions about his and his party's prospects for success. No
one expects substantial changes in policy, either internal or
external, including on Afghanistan, regardless of which of the
two major coalition possibilities wins out -- though contacts
believe any policy changes would be more likely if Merkel gets
her wish and partners with the FDP in a new government, rather
than maintaining the status quo in a Grand Coalition.

Last-minute Campaign Appearances in NRW

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3. (U) The night before she left for the G-20 summit in
Pittsburgh, Chancellor Merkel addressed a crowd of 5000 plus
enthusiastic supporters at a September 23 campaign rally in
Wuppertal. Her combative speech touched on all the main points
of the CDU election platform, including lower taxes,
strengthening families, and more money for education. A "flash
mob" of around 100 people, including activists of the "Pirate
Party," tried to heckle her, unsuccessfully, as she handled the
situation with quick-wittedness and humor. SPD chancellor
candidate Steinmeier made his final campaign appearances in NRW
in the Ruhr area cities of Bochum and Dortmund on September 21
and 22. In Dortmund, supported by Federal Finance Minister (and
former NRW Minister President) Steinbrueck, Steinmeier attacked
the CDU and FDP, accusing them of planning to carry out "tax
cuts for a few, and cuts in social benefits for many" after the
elections. FDP chairman Westerwelle will hold his last big
campaign rally in his hometown and constituency of Bonn on
September 25.

Few New Faces: Prospective Deputies from NRW

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4. (U) A look at the NRW state lists of candidates of the
various parties shows that all five parties, CDU, SPD, FDP,
Greens and the Left Party, are relying heavily on incumbents,
with only a handful of newcomers nominated for election. The
parties gave the bulk of "safe" slots on the state lists to

DUSSELDORF 00000036 002.2 OF 002


incumbent Bundestag members. The most prominent newcomer among
the SPD Bundestag candidates is Finance Minister Steinbrueck,
who is running for a Bundestag seat for the first time in a
constituency east of Duesseldorf, and whose number three slot on
the SPD assures him of election. Sven Volmering, NRW state
chairman of the "Junge Union," the CDU's youth organization, is
probably the best known CDU newcomer with a safe slot.
Christian Lindner, the youngest member of the NRW Landtag and
FDP Secretary-General in NRW can expect to be elected to the
Bundestag, as can Frithjof Schmidt, a former Greens member of
the European Parliament and former Greens state chairman in NRW.
Sarah Wagenknecht, the leader of the orthodox communist
platform within the Left Party, has an excellent chance of
winning a Bundestag seat via the Left Party's state list in NRW.


5. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
WEINER

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