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Cablegate: Spd Recedes Dramatically in Traditional Stronghold: North

VZCZCXRO0286
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHDF #0039/01 2751518
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021518Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0237
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHDF/AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF 0253

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DUSSELDORF 000039

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL GM
SUBJECT: SPD RECEDES DRAMATICALLY IN TRADITIONAL STRONGHOLD: NORTH
RHINE-WESTPHALIA

REF: DUSSELDORF 36

DUSSELDORF 00000039 001.3 OF 003


1. (U) Summary: Until now, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and its
industrial Ruhr region were Germany's Social Democratic
heartland. No longer. The CDU is now the strongest party in
NRW. The Bundestag election returns in Germany's most populous
state of NRW, with few exceptions, reflected the national
trends, i.e., massive losses for the SPD, moderate losses for
the CDU, and big gains for the smaller parties - FDP, Greens and
Left Party. Voter participation fell to an all-time low,
helping the smaller parties and hurting the big ones, in
particular the SPD. The September 27 national elections are
also an important indicator of the strengths of the various
parties in NRW seven months before next year's Landtag
elections. NRW politicians are already telling us they expect
the new federal black-yellow coalition in Berlin to take early,
decisive action to help shore up the CDU and FDP in NRW as they
think ahead to May 2010. End summary.

Winners and Losers

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

2. (U) The Bundestag election produced historic firsts for all
five Bundestag parties in NRW -- either the best or worst
results ever recorded in the state's 63-year history, depending
on the party. In terms of percentage shares of the popular
vote, FDP (14.9%), the Greens (10.1%) and the Left Party (8.9%)
each achieved their best results ever in NRW since World War II,
while the two big parties - CDU (33.1%) and SPD (28.5%) -
recorded their lowest Bundestag election returns in NRW since
the founding of the Federal Republic. Voter turnout dropped by
6.9 percent to 71.4 percent, the lowest level ever in a
Bundestag election in NRW, and only slightly better than the
national average of 70.8 percent. The poor voter turnout helped
the small and hurt the big parties, in particular the SPD, which
failed to mobilize its core clientele in the Ruhr's cities.

Increasing Political Fragmentation

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

3. (U) The strong electoral performance of the FDP, Greens and
the Left Party, together with the disappointing results for the
big parties, is evidence of increasing fragmentation of the
political party landscape in NRW and in Germany in general. The
smaller parties continue to grow, at the expense of the larger
ones, a trend that started in the 1980s, and has now
accelerated. In 1976, for example, CDU and SPD together
received well over 90 percent of the popular vote in Bundestag
elections in NRW; this share has continually decreased to reach
an all-time low in this last election of just 61.6 percent. (On
the national level, this was more pronounced, where the figures
for 1976 and 2009 were 91.2 percent and 56.8 percent,
respectively.) The Left Party's good showing in last Sunday's
election also virtually ensures it will enter the NRW state
parliament after next May's state election.

SPD: A Defeat of Catastrophic Proportions

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

4. (U) Although its losses across NRW (minus 11.5 percent
state-wide) only slightly exceeded those at the national level,
the SPD's defeat in its traditional heartland was so devastating
that NRW SPD state chair Hannelore Kraft described it as a
defeat of "catastrophic proportions." The party suffered
massive losses in its previous strongholds in the Ruhr,
amounting to 15 percent or more (e.g., in Dortmund and
Recklinghausen). Several factors caused this development: The
especially low voter turnout in these constituencies was a clear
indication that traditional SPD voters, disaffected with their
party, stayed away from the polls, and the Left Party succeeded
in bringing a sizable chunk of SPD voters into its fold -- it
was in the traditional SPD strongholds where the Left Party
achieved its best gains in NRW.

5. (U) Despite heavy losses, NRW with the Ruhr region remains
the SPD's weakened mainstay in the post-election German
political landscape. Despite the massive hemorrhaging of votes
in the Ruhr area cities, there are no other electoral districts
in Germany where the SPD performed better. In Gelsenkirchen,
Duisburg, Bochum and Herne, the SPD garnered between 42 and 44

DUSSELDORF 00000039 002.3 OF 003


percent of the popular vote, down from the 55 or even 60 percent
it used to poll. With one exception, the SPD won all the
constituency races in the Ruhr area, but overall lost 15
constituencies to the CDU, mostly in the Ruhr periphery, as well
as in Cologne, Aachen and Bielefeld. The NRW SPD will only send
39 Bundestag deputies to Berlin (in 2005, it sent 54).

6. (U) The more prominent losers who will not return to Berlin
include Turkish-born Lale Akguen, the SPD's commissioner for
Islamic Affairs (and the only SPD Bundestag deputy from NRW with
an immigrant background), Defense Committee chairwoman Ulrike
Merten, Parliamentary State Secretaries Michael Mueller and
Karin Kortmann, and Family Affairs Committee chairwoman Kerstin
Griese. Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck and Health Affairs
Minister Ulla Schmidt lost their constituency races, but were
elected via the SPD state list, as was SPD national chairman
Franz Muentefering.

CDU: Emerging as NRW's Strongest Party

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

7. (U) For the first time since 1983, the CDU emerged as the
strongest party in NRW, with 33.1 percent of the popular vote,
slightly below the national average and 1.3 percent below its
state election result of 2005. Also struggling with the erosion
of support from core voters, the CDU suffered its biggest losses
(up to 7 percent) in its strongholds in rural and Catholic
areas, where the CDU had to be content with 42-46 percent (e.g.,
in Paderborn and in the Muensterland and Sauerland regions).

8. (U) There will be 45 CDU Bundestag deputies from NRW (one
fewer than in 2005), making the NRW CDU state group
("Landesgruppe") the largest group in the 17th Bundestag.
Fifteen are newcomers to the Bundestag, including two former
participants in the IVLP program. Most prominent NRW CDU
Bundestag deputies won their constituency races, notably
Secretary-General Roland Pofalla, Minister of State in the
Chancellor's Office Hermann Grvhe, Chief Whip Norbert Rvttgen,
Foreign Committee Chairman Ruprecht Polenz, and Deputy Floor
Leader Wolfgang Bosbach. Only Bundestag President Norbert
Lammert and Junge Union chairman Philipp Missfelder had to use
the "safety net" of the CDU state list, because they ran in Ruhr
area constituencies which were defended by SPD incumbents. The
only prominent CDU Bundestag deputy from NRW not reelected was
former national CDU Secretary General Laurenz Meyer. As before,
there will be one CDU Bundestag deputy of (Iranian) immigrant
background.

Strong Showing of FDP, Greens and Left Party in NRW

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

9. (U) Twenty FDP Bundestag deputies of the 17th Bundestag will
come from NRW, more than from any other German state. The 14
Greens deputies and the 11 Left Party deputies from NRW also
constitute the largest state groups within their respective
caucuses. The FDP achieved its best results (up to 22 percent
of the popular vote) in Cologne, Bonn and the neighboring
Rhein-Sieg county. FDP national chairman Guido Westerwelle lost
the constituency race in his home town of Bonn, but was
re-elected via the FDP state list, as were former Minister of
State in the Foreign Office Werner Hoyer and Budget Committee
Chairman Otto Fricke. Promising FDP newcomers from NRW include
the national chairman of the "Junge Liberale," Johannes Vogel,
and Christian Lindner, FDP Secretary General in NRW and until
the youngest member of the NRW Landtag, both recent IVLP
participants. Among the FDP newcomers from NRW is a member with
an (Iranian) immigrant background.

10. (U) The Greens' strongholds (up to 20 percent of the vote)
were in university cities like Cologne, Muenster, Bonn and
Aachen. As before, former NRW Environmental Affairs Minister
Baerbel Hoehn, former Minister of State in the Foreign Office
Kerstin Mueller, as well as chief whip Volker Beck are among the
more prominent members of the Greens Bundestag caucus from NRW.
The Left Party garnered its greatest support (up to 14 percent)
in Ruhr area cities like Duisburg, Herne and Gelsenkirchen.
Sarah Wagenknecht, the leader of the orthodox communist platform
within the Left Party, is the most prominent Left Party deputy

DUSSELDORF 00000039 003.3 OF 003


elected in NRW. Two of the Left Party Bundestag deputies from
NRW have an immigrant background (Turkish and Iranian).

Comment: Looking to the Future

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

11. (SBU) Coming seven months before the May 2010 NRW state
parliament elections, NRW's Bundestag election results are an
important indicator of the respective strengths of the parties
here. The current CDU-FDP government coalition may be able to
continue beyond 2010, although with a much narrower
parliamentary majority. Much will depend on the political and
economic performance of the to-be-formed Merkel-Westerwelle
government during its first six months in office. Both
Minister-President Ruettgers and his deputy and FDP state
chairman Andreas Pinkwart will be members of their national
parties' negotiating teams, who will hammer out a coalition
agreement between CDU/CSU and FDP within the next few weeks in
Berlin. Ruettgers in particular can be expected to use his
influence to postpone decisions on possible unpopular measures
until after the elections in NRW next May, while pressing for
positive forward action from Berlin to show how effective
black/yellow can be nationally. As if to make the point, the
coalition negotiations between the federal government partners
will be held at the NRW State Representation in Berlin. End
comment.

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

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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