© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows a campaign poster of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) with main candidate Franziska Giffey for the upcoming repeat state elections in Berlin, Germany, January 6, 2023. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
BERLIN (Reuters) – Berliners returned to the polls on Sunday, electing the city-state’s government for the second time in 18 months after, for the first time in German history, a court declared the election invalid due to irregularities.
The vote could oust leftist mayor Franziska Giffey long before the end of her term and complicate life for the federal chancellor, her party ally Olaf Scholz, by depriving his coalition of more votes in the upper house of parliament.
The repeat vote, ordered after the original election on September 21, 2021 was marred by irregularities, including long lines and voters receiving incorrect ballots, is yet another indictment for those who see the German capital as a sclerotic mess belied by Germany’s reputation for efficiency .
The opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) hope the message will bring them victory and give them a boost ahead of October elections in Hesse, home to Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, where the conservative prime minister risks losing office to another Scholz ally.
Polls give the Christian Democrats around 25% of the vote in Berlin, comfortably ahead of the Social Democrats (SPD) on 21%, suggesting voters support the idea of ending the Social Democrats’ 22-year unbroken rule.
“I want people to look at Berlin and see a place where things work,” said Christian Democrat candidate Kai Wegner, promising to make public administration faster, fix crumbling schools and improve public order.
But far more voters in the city known for its arts and party scenes support parties to his left, including Giffey’s current coalition partners the Greens, on 17%, and the Left Party, on 8%, meaning that even if Wegner comes first, he may difficult to form a government.
For young voters, many of whom are of immigrant origin, the CDU’s calls for more policing are particularly disturbing.
For Berlin’s critics, debacles like the city’s new airport, which opened in 2020 a decade late and many times over budget, symbolize the gulf between the scrappy if lovable capital and wealthier cities like Munich or Hamburg.
For historian Tim Moss, the city’s struggles are partly the result of the Cold War, when divided Berlin was a showcase for the competing communist and capitalist worlds, meaning it could go while paymasters poured in subsidies. The city has struggled to achieve self-reliance ever since, he said.
Some criticisms seem dated: the energy crisis stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has called into question the future of some of Germany’s thriving manufacturing industries, while Berlin’s tech scene has made it one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe and one of Germany’s fastest growing. growing regional economies.