Cablegate: Merkel Under Pressure in Germany's Southwest

DE RUEHFT #2523/01 2681311
O 251311Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Merkel Under Pressure in Germany's Southwest

Sensitive but unclassified; not for internet distribution.

1. SUMMARY: No clear predictions can be made in Germany's
southwest states as to which parties will prevail in the upcoming
federal election. Polls show that the Christian Democrats (CDU)
have lost ground in Baden-Wuerttemberg (B-W), typically a CDU
stronghold, however have gained slightly in Rheinland-Pfalz, making
the overall situation somewhat of a wash. The Social Democrats
(SPD) also lag in the three states discussed in this cable, Hesse,
Rheinland-Pfalz, and Baden-Wurttemberg, while the smaller parties,
primarily the Greens and Free Democrats (FDP), are making up their
losses. Voter turnout due to malaise and dissatisfaction with the
Chancellor Merkel also may be an issue. END SUMMARY.

Considerable Unrest in Baden-Wurttemberg CDU

2. The latest poll publicized 10 days before the national elections
caused shock waves in the B-W CDU. The B-W Christian Democrats are
presently at 34% of the popular vote, a decline of 5.2% compared to
2005. Although leading B-W Christian Democrats downplayed the
results in public statements calling them "snapshots", the shock
goes deep. For the southwest CDU, typically one of the strongest
CDU areas in the country, this result would be a historic low. B-W
CDU Secretary General, Thomas Strobl, and CDU caucus chief Stefan
Mappus have publicly called upon the rank and file to mobilize.
Strobl also indirectly criticized the campaign of Chancellor Merkel,
which focused more on her as a candidate than on party policies.
Regional dissatisfaction with Merkel is attributed to the impression
that she sided with VW over the Baden-Wurttemberg based Porsche
during the Porsche-VW deal. An imprudent joke she made last year
about southwest German accents also continues to anger some CDU
members who view her as a Northerner who does not understand them.

3. While the outlook for the CDU is poor, the B-W Social Democrats
are not faring much better. The SPD has dropped by 8.1% down to
22%, the worst result in the last 56 years. Deputy SPD Caucus Chief
Nils Schmid told Consulate representatives that Foreign Minister
Steinmeier's strong showing in the televised debate has helped, but
they need two more weeks of campaigning to make up votes. The
smaller parties in B-W are benefiting. The FDP polled at 18%, up
6.1% from 2005 election, the B-W Greens at 15 %(up 4.3%) and the
Left Party at 7% (up 3.2%). FDP contacts say that they want to
prove that they are the third strongest party in Baden-Wuertemberg
on Sunday.

SPD Party in Rheinland-Pfalz Struggling

6. Reports from Rheinland-Pfalz (R-P) indicate that the SPD is also
struggling there. Polls place them at 28% (down 6.6% compared to
2005), the lowest ever since 1953. CDU party chief, Christian
Baldauf, stated that he views these results as an indication that
the SPD's predominance in the state is coming to an end, after it
has been the governing party there since 1991. The CDU, however, and
the smaller parties, FDP, Greens, all show gains. The CDU in
particular is polling at 39%, which is up 3.9% from 2005. Current
polls put the FDP at 14%, Greens at 8% and the Left at 7%.

SPD in Hesse Still Recovering
7. In Hesse, the SPD is also struggling after the loss of
credibility it experienced last year when party leader Andrea
Ypsilanti tried to form a coalition government with the Left Party
and failed. The Hesse SPD Party currently is hoping for 25% (as
opposed to the 35.6% it reached in 2005). According to a senior SPD
party official, many Hesse SPD members feel angry with the national
SPD Chair Franz Muentefering, whom they think encouraged Ypsilanti's
failure in 2008. He expects Muenterfering to fail in national
politics due to dislike for him in the party.

9. The ruling CDU party currently expects around 34% of the vote
(33.7 in 2005), according to a high ranking official in the Hesse
State Chancellery. The CDU fears low voter turnout, however, in
part because, as per this official, Chancellor Merkel has alienated
some of the Catholic, conservative base. The FDP Caucus Chief in
Hesse, Florian Rentsche, echoed this sentiment. Although the FDP
expects a respectable 11 to 14% in Hesse (11.7% in 2005), Rentsche
doubts that a CDU-FDP coalition will be possible because of CDU
members not voting. He additionally says that the Chancellor has
lost some of her conservative base by being too liberal and that
she's also perceived by local members as too "Northern."

10. The Greens hope to gain on Sunday due to the SPD losses. Their
Hesse Chair Tarek al-Wazir told Consulate representatives that he
expects the Greens to have the third strongest showing with 12%
(10.1% in 2005).

FRANKFURT 00002523 002 OF 002

11. COMMENT: Regional issues do play a role in influencing how
Germans will vote on Sunday. However, it is not clear that
indications from our district, including dissatisfaction with
Chancellor Merkel and the possibility of low voter turnout, will be
strong enough to upset the status quo: Merkel as the candidate
favored to stay in power. END COMMENT


© Scoop Media

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