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Cablegate: Nrw Election Campaign: Spd's Kraft Taking Aim,

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DE RUEHDF #0010/01 0541258
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231256Z FEB 10
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0001
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
FRG COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSSELDORF 000010

SENSITIVE
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DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON GM
SUBJECT: NRW Election Campaign: SPD's Kraft Taking Aim,
Minister-President R??ttgers Taking Cover

1. (SBU) Summary: Hannelore Kraft, the head of the opposition
Social Democrats (SPD) in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), laid out
her party's program for the May 9 state election to a February 22
consular corps gathering. Buoyed by recent WDR polling that shows
Minister-President J????rgen R????ttgers' Christian Democrat/Free
Democrat (CDU/FDP) coalition no longer enjoys a majority, Kraft
pointed out that her underdog SPD, together with the surging
Greens, are now just one point back. She sees the election, now
ten weeks off, as wide open. Her main points, paraphrased, boil
down to: It's the social state restructured, stupid. End summary.

2. (U) Kraft explained that the NRW SPD spent their five years in
the wilderness since their loss to R????ttgers' CDU in 2005 taking
stock, re-structuring their platform, talking to people and
preparing the ground for the May election. At the rate of roughly
one theme per year, they have carefully elaborated programs for:

???? Work and training: create conditions so that those who
work earn more than someone on social security (Hartz IV);

???? Education (per Kraft, the #1 theme in the state):
further strengthen what R????ttgers' government has begun in terms of
support from early education on, create more possibilities for
children to move up in school and society, and stem the annual loss
of 20% of youth who either fail to finish school or lack job
training;

???? Cities' and towns' financing: many are in dire straits
financially; create a sort of "bad bank" for communities so they
can get back on their fiscal feet and provide the services that
drive much of the SPD's agenda;

???? The economy, innovation and technology: Germany and NRW
in particular can only sell themselves as "better, rather than
cheaper" (besser statt billiger), through innovation and
creativity; and

???? Social cohesion in society must be maintained: a key
factor that Kraft believes is fraying (during a recent visit to
Opel in Bochum, the workers - who have been living with uncertainty
for months on end - told her that if the facility closed, they
would take to the streets with clubs in their hands).

3. (U) The campaign is well underway. The dismissal February 22 of
NRW CDU Secretary General W????st for offering sponsors "rented" time
with Minister-President R????ttgers was fresh meat (septel) (Kraft
joked quietly that when she made her rounds in NRW and talked to
people, she didn't charge). Kraft, though, stated at the outset,
"It is extremely important to me that we don't run a negative
campaign." People believe something is fundamentally wrong in NRW
- in her view, they want to hear about a vision for future, not
interparty squabbling or mud-slinging.

4. (U) Kraft described her efforts in recent months to put herself
into the average person's shoes. Instead of the usual "meet the
managers and the union folks" - shaking hands, drinking coffee,
exchanging pleasantries, then leaving a business or factory for the
next appointment, she undertook an "enterprise" tour ("Tatkraft
tour" - a play on words on her last name), spending a day in each
of 10 work places, from a hospital to a mid-sized business, a youth
center, an old people's home, and the police, among others, working
with the workers, participating in their lives. The results will
be presented at the NRW SPD's pre-election convention February
26-27. If she becomes M-P, she stated, she intends to continue the
practice once a month.

5. (SBU) CG asked SPD Landtag member Wolfram Kuschke, who
accompanied Kraft, about the situation with the NRW "Left" Party.
Kraft had earlier said the SPD had hoped to draw away disaffected
members who were shut out of the party's more extreme leadership.
While this hasn't materialized, Kuschke said, Oskar Lafontaine's
decision to leave the party leadership has caused the Left to go
quiet. No one knows the candidates - they are mostly unknowns,
with little profile, and out of the headlines.

6. (SBU) Comment: Kraft's SPD stands to profit from a series of
small scandals and missteps, culminating with NRW CDU Secretary
General W????st's February 22 resignation. The local SPD hasn't yet
had to sling much mud (there is plenty coming from Berlin), as the
CDU is doing a fine job of creating its own gaffes. The M-P "not
knowing anything about meetings for rent" is fast turning into a
topic of derision in the media and casual conversations alike - a
tone new to this political season, which R????ttgers and his team
will
not relish, even as they scramble to find a new "general" to run

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their campaign. Kraft, who has done her grassroots homework and
will take center stage this weekend at the SPD convention, for now
seems on message and on target. And she is right on at least one
count: this election, which could have been R????ttgers' for the
asking, is up for grabs.
WEINER

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