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Cablegate: Nrw Election Chessgame: Ruettgers Sacrifices His Queen As

VZCZCXRO0951
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDF #0012 0541409
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231315Z FEB 10
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0003
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
FRG COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DUSSELDORF 000012

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV GM
SUBJECT: NRW Election Chessgame: Ruettgers Sacrifices His Queen as
Campaign Heats Up

1. (U) Summary: Juergen Ruettgers, Minister-President (M-P) of
North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) forced his prot????g???? and the
General-Secretary of the NRW Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
Hendrik Wuest to resign his post February 22 after a scandal broke
over the weekend involving the possible selling of appointments
with the M-P to sponsors of the party for a set fee. The quick
resignation came on the heels of growing accusations from the
opposition parties that the CDU was selling access to the state's
top ranking office holder. The affair comes at a most inopportune
moment for the ruling CDU and its coalition partner the FDP, who
face an uphill battle to be returned to power in the upcoming May 9
state parliament elections. The elections in NRW, the largest state
in Germany, have been described as a "mini-Bundestag" election
because they are the only state election in Germany in 2010 and
could change the majority situation in the Bundesrat, the second
chamber of parliament at the national level. Many political
observers also see the election as a referendum on the recently
elected CDU-FDP coalition on the Federal level in Berlin. End
Summary.

2. (U) Over the weekend, media reports confirmed that the NRW CDU
had sent a letter to potential sponsors for their upcoming state
convention to be held in March, offering one-on-one talks with M-P
Ruettgers if the sponsors donated between 8,000-20,000 Euro.
Ruettgers immediately denied any knowledge of the fundraising quid
pro quo scheme and publicly ordered Wuest to put a halt to the
plan. Wuest quickly apologized to Ruettgers on Sunday, February
21, but that was not enough. On February 22, after another meeting
with the Minister-President, Wuest announced his resignation as the
party's General-Secretary, but confirmed that he would not resign
his seat in the state parliament, which he has held since 2005.

3. (U) After the scandal broke, opposition parties seized on the
potential misuse of office, and started calling for not only the
resignation of Wuest, the architect of the CDU election campaign,
but also for the resignation of M-P Ruettgers, should it turn that
he -- contrary to his affirmations -- had prior knowledge of this
fundraising scheme. NRW Social Democratic Party (SPD)
Secretary-General Michael Groschek called this type of fundraising
"scandalous" and "beyond the limits of our political culture."
Greens Landtag floor leader Sylvia Loehrmann deplored that the "CDU
and Ruettgers have damaged the office of Minister-President by
marketing it." The sharpest criticism came from the national
level: SPD Bundestag chief whip Thomas Oppermann referred to the
CDU plans as "political prostitution and corruption" and as
"destroying democracy."

4. (SBU) Comment: The scandal marks a turning point in the NRW
election campaign. The CDU had hoped to cruise to victory with
their current coalition partners, the FDP, but with polls showing
decreasing support for the FDP and stagnant or decreasing support
for the CDU, a victory for the CDU-FDP coalition is not at all
certain. The quick resignation of Wuest, considered by many
observers as one of the most promising younger leaders in the NRW
CDU, is a quick attempt at damage control. As the strategic mind
and the main organizer of the CDU's campaign, Wuest's departure
represents not just the sacrifice of a pawn, but really a sacrifice
of the queen to save the king and is crippling for Ruettgers' quest
for reelection as Minister-President, as it tarnishes Ruettgers
himself. Most damaging for Ruettgers is the accusation that he,
who styles himself as NRW's labor leader and champion of the man on
the street, might have been willing to lend his ear to rich people
for money. It is much too early to assess the full impact of this
affair, but it is fair to say that if Ruettgers should lose the
election, this was the affair that broke his neck. End comment.
WEINER

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