Cablegate: Nrw's Spd Leader Sees Daylight at End of Landtag Opposition

DE RUEHDF #0051/01 3562108
R 222108Z DEC 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) Summary: North Rhine-Westphalia's (NRW) opposition
leader and SPD national vice chair Hannelore Kraft sees the May
2010 NRW Landtag election as wide open; the current black/yellow
government does not have a lock on the state. She believes she
was named national vice chair for a reason, knows it will be a
bruiser of a campaign, with many appearances by national
figures, and is well prepared. Her party's election platform
will focus on education, the economy, combating rising debt and
unemployment. But Kraft, an economist by training, is clear
that money has to be invested - in early childhood education,
for example - to reap savings later on. End Summary.

Batten Down the Hatches for the Landtag Election

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

2. (SBU) Kraft previewed the SPD strategy for the upcoming May
2010 NRW Landtag election for the CG. She sees (as she must)
the NRW SPD as having some advantages over the national party.
It obtained the best results in the 2009 local elections,
regaining a number of important mayoral posts, thanks to
door-to-door campaigning. It does not bear the burden of
co-governance with the CDU, which blurred party lines and
positions; rather, it has the advantage of sitting in
opposition. In addition, she believes many did not vote for the
national SPD because it was a party without a potential
coalition partner. Local polling shows the current black/yellow
government does not have a lock, per Kraft. She sees Forsa
polls as unreliable, since they slice out NRW from their
national results, rather than doing focused work. She relies
instead on WDR polling, which she views as scientifically and
statistically sound. Recent WDR polls show black/yellow no
longer has a clear majority.

3. (SBU) Kraft believes that smaller parties will continue to
gain at the expense of the larger ones, a trend that concerns
her, since large parties have long been an anchor in German
politics. It also tells her the SPD must work harder to win -
or win back - its core constituencies. Responding to the CG's
query, she affirmed she still sees the SPD as a "Volkspartei" -
one that communicates the interests of the people writ large -
despite recent losses. The SPD is working, for example, to win
back disaffected trade unionists from the NRW "Linke" (the
Left), which, unlike their more pragmatic brethren in the
Saarland, Kraft sees as being run by hardliners who propose
"crazy" things like nationalizing industry. Though she concedes
the Left will probably make it into the Landtag, she doubts they
will quickly learn the craft of compromise or governance. And
despite her stated reluctance to shut doors publicly on
potential coalition partners, she has done so already -
vociferously - regarding the Left.

Education Under One Roof


4. (SBU) The SPD will campaign on as many as five themes,
including education reform, state and local finances, and
economic innovation, all of which she sees as the Achilles'
heels of the current NRW administration. Of those, education is
near and dear to Kraft's heart. In order to further upward
mobility, which she believes the current split school system
stymies, she wants to see the fusion of the three current school
types (Real-, Hauptschule, Gymnasium) into one school called a
Gemeinschaftsschule (community school), similar to a middle
school, for the fifth and sixth grades. Beyond the level of the
Gemeinschaftsschule, the three current school types should be
housed under one roof, to allow for further fluidity and real
potential for students to advance to a Gymnasium, which offers
the best educational qualifications. Kraft also sees a need to
return to strict districting (to prevent the current
parent-chosen clustering of students in "known" good schools),
pay teachers more, and bring in more male teachers. She wants
to eliminate all student payments associated with school
attendance; it should all be financed by the state to provide
equal opportunity to all, no matter the income or educational
level of the parents.

Invest to Reap Rewards


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5. (SBU) Kraft, an economist by training, is adamant about the
need to invest up-front in education. "Lost children" end up
costing all levels of government considerably more than the
initial investment in education. A single child who falls
through the social net and ends up in juvenile detention costs
upwards of $100,000 per year. Kraft seeks expanded investments
in preschools in order to ensure that language abilities of all
4-6 year olds (especially those of low-income and immigrant
backgrounds) are up to par once they begin school (a program
brought in by the current black/yellow government, which Kraft
would like to expand). At the same time, she believes in
investing in the parents, so they can learn how best to support
their children's studies.

6. (SBU) While investment is key, Kraft believes the state of
the cities - many of which are essentially bankrupt - and their
decreasing ability to provide services, will be additional
campaign themes. The economic crisis will continue to bite hard
as those who have kept employees on as "short-time" workers may
start letting people go. Unemployment - especially in already
hard-hit areas of the Ruhr - will be another topic, as well as
the need to support small- and medium-sized firms.

Comment: It's Campaign Time and More


7. (SBU) The Landtag campaign - which all say will officially
begin after Easter - is well underway. Not only Kraft, but CDU
contacts, tell us they already have more offers of appearances
by national figures than they will be able to use. When Kraft
says the SPD can upset the current black/yellow coalition in
NRW, it's clearly more than a politician talking - she means it.
It would be a coup for her to break the SPD's losing streak.
All know the black/yellow majority in the Bundesrat is at stake,
but Kraft - and current M-P Ruettgers - also see themselves as
running a referendum on the new federal coalition.

© Scoop Media

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