Cablegate: Thuringia Election Aftermath: Calls for a Grand Coalition

DE RUEHLZ #0028 2451411
P R 021411Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: Leipzig 26

1. (SBU) Summary: Having lost its absolute majority in the
August 30 state elections, Thuringia's Christian Democratic
Union (CDU) may resort to pushing Minister-President Dieter
Althaus aside to increase its chances of forming a coalition
with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). A CDU-SPD coalition
could benefit the SPD nationally by showcasing the possibility
of another Grand Coalition. Some prominent CDU leaders in
Thuringia have blamed Althaus for this major loss, and have
called upon him to resign. The CDU understands that the SPD
would be hard-pressed to form a coalition with the CDU with
Althaus as Minister President having based its election campaign
on an appeal for change from the "Althaus system." The SPD is
the "kingmaker" in coalition negotiations, and also has the
option of forming a coalition with The Left Party and the
Greens. End Summary.

Althaus as Liability

2. (SBU) SPD representatives told local press and ConGen staff
that a CDU-SPD coalition with current MP Dieter Althaus is
unthinkable. SPD MP candidate Christoph Matschie's
pronouncement that people in Thuringia voted against "the
Althaus system," indicates the difficulty Matschie would have
now entering into a coalition with an Althaus-led CDU. The CDU
lost 11 percent of its support (from 2004 levels) in the August
30 state elections, ending up with 31.2 percent of the vote and
losing its absolute majority (reftel). The Left party received
26 percent and the SPD 18 percent of the vote, making the SPD
the "kingmaker" in forming a new government. The SPD also has
the option of building a coalition with the Left Party, but this
is problematic since the SPD says it will not enter such a
coalition with a Left Party minister president. What's more, the
SPD ran a campaign calling for change from Althaus's CDU, so
aligning itself now with an Althaus-led CDU would likely also
prompt strong criticism from the Left Party and could injure the
SPD's image in Thuringia in the long run.

3. (U) In the aftermath of the elections, calls for Althaus's
resignation have come from CDU politicians who want the CDU to
stay in power and to prevent a governing coalition of the Left
Party and the SPD. Vera Lengsfeld, former CDU member of the
Bundestag from Thuringia told the press on September 1 that "the
CDU has to show that it cares about the future of the state and
not about a person." Also, Michael Brychcy (CDU), mayor of
Waltershausen and President of the association of Thuringia
municipalities, declared that Althaus should resign and give the
CDU a "new start."

Comment: Enter, Lieberknecht?

4. (SBU) If Althaus resigns, Minister for Social Affairs
Christine Lieberknecht is favored by political analysts and the
press to take Althaus's position. Lieberknecht has headed
several ministries since 1990; as a former pastor, she is known
for her ability to mediate and building bridges -- a skill
necessary to bring two parties together which fought heavily
against each other in the election campaign. A grand coalition
has advantages for both the CDU and SPD. The CDU would be able
to remain in power, with a CDU M-P, certainly a face-saving
solution for the CDU in the month before national elections. A
CDU-SPD coalition in Thuringia could boost the SPD, showcasing
the CDU-SPD coalition model before the upcoming national
elections, where the SPD's best hope is another coalition with
the CDU (Grand Coalition). It would also mean that the SPD
could avoid discussions of an SPD-Left Party-Greens
(red-red-green) coalition, which many on the state and national
level do not support. Althaus himself, however, would have to
willingly step down and must find a way to do so without losing
face; some analysts suggest he could become chairman of the
CDU's political institution, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
End Comment.

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


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