29th Mar 2023

Conservatives 'win' Berlin — but may not get to govern

  • Despite coming out on top, and with 28 percent of the vote, the CDU might not get to run Berlin, or their candidate Kai Wegner (pictured voting on Sunday) make it to the mayor’s office in city hall (Photo: CDU Twitter)
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The conservative Christian Democrats convincingly came out on top in Sunday's (13 February) election to run Berlin, the German capital, with a stunning 10 percent increase in the vote, besting the incumbent SPD and Green parties.

The CDU topped the ballot, with 28.2 percent, ahead of the SPD on 18.4 percent — tied in a deadheat for second place with their current coalition partners the Greens, also on 18.4 percent.

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  • The SPD, under mayor Franziska Giffey, sunk from 21.4 percent in September 2021 to 18.4 percent - exactly tying with the Greens (Photo: Matthew Tempest)

The Left party, part of the current red/red/green coalition running Berlin, managed 12.2 percent, with the hard-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) getting nearly one-in-ten votes, on 9.1 percent.

The pro-business liberal party, the FPD, which is currently the third partner in the national government, crashed out of the Berlin house of represenatives entirely, failing to reach the five percent threshold by winning only 4.1 percent.

The result is a particular embarrassment for the SPD — having run Berlin for more than two decades, and the city being home to the national government led by the SPD chancellor Olaf Scholz, in coalition with the Greens and FDP.

However, despite coming out on top, and with 28 percent of the vote, the CDU might not get to run Berlin, their candidate Kai Wegner might not make it to the mayor's office in city hall.

That's because in live German TV coverage of the election results on Sunday night, neither the Greens nor the SPD expressed much initial interest in governing in coalition with the CDU.

Behind-the-scenes discussions are now expected before a governing coalition announced, but despite coming in joint second and fourth places, the incumbent red/red/green coalition would have a majority to rule in the 140-seat chamber.

On Monday, Wegner was both optimistic and defiant, warning the other parties not to try to ignore the voters' desire for change.

He said: "All three governing parties — the SPD, Greens and the Left — have lost," he said. The SPD "had the historically worst election result it has ever had in Berlin," and his CDU "has a clear mandate to govern."

"My goal is the formation of a stable government that works together in a spirit of trust, that takes the whole city into account and also allows each other to be successful."

"This is how we can make Berlin a little bit better every day and ensure that our great city."

However, the seeming dead heat for second place between the SPD of incumbent mayor, Franziska Giffey, and the Greens led by Bettina Jarasch, both on 18.4 percent, also complicates negotiations.

With Giffey and Jarasch widely thought to dislike each other, who would form the mayor and lead partner in another red/red/green city coalition which circumvents the winning CDU, is a question likely to be hammered out in coalition talks on Monday (13 February) and possibly over the next few days.

The re-run election on Sunday was prompted by the constitutional court ruling the initial September 2021 election invalid, due to problems with the number of ballot papers, and access to polling stations.


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