March 4. 2024. 8:23

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Frustrated Berliners face political deadlock after Germany’s first rerun election

Germany’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won Sunday’s state election rerun in Berlin, but the city’s leftist coalition could yet shrug off a slump in support to reclaim power.

Sunday evening projections put the CDU on 28 per cent, its highest result since 1999. After 20 years in the political wilderness in Berlin, state CDU leader Kai Wegner said his party’s 10 point leap in support gave it a “clear mandate for change”.

“It’s Berlin that has won, Berlin can party, the ruling coalition has been voted out,” he said.

Berlin voters appeared to punish the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD): forecasts saw it down three points on 18 per cent, neck and neck with its outgoing Green coalition partners. A post-election deadlock made it unclear on Sunday evening which party would finish ahead with a mandate to head a new three-way leftist coalition. Their third coalition partner, the Left Party, was down two points on 12 per cent. Taken together, the three parties captured nearly 50 per cent of the vote.

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SPD leader Franziska Giffey, Berlin’s outgoing governing mayor, was cautious in post-election coverage, saying her “preference is an alliance under SPD leadership”.

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Post-election polls showed three-quarters of Berlin dissatisfied with the current Berlin government, grappling with a housing shortage and spiralling rents as well as crime fears and creaking analogue administration.

Analysts suggested that, after two decades in power, Berliners had run out of patience with the SPD over the 2021 election. It was declared invalid by Berlin’s highest court last November after analysis confirmed widespread election day chaos.

After 14 rocky months of policy clashes in Berlin, campaigning Greens threatened to abandon the SPD and join forces instead with the centre-right CDU.

But in a post-election television discussion, Green frontwoman Bettina Jarasch vowed to continue the current coalition under her leadership. “The current coalition has a clear and stable majority,” she said.

Though Berlin city state elections carry little strategic weight in German federal politics, the CDU win was a welcome symbolic boost for party chairman Friedrich Merz.

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The big loser of the evening was Berlin’s liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), struggling on Sunday evening to clear the 5 per cent parliamentary threshold.

The next Berlin senate is expected to have 147 seats, with 74 seats required for an absolute majority. Based on Sunday evening projections, an SPD-Green-Left coalition would have 85 seats while a CDU-Green alliance could govern with 79 seats. A CDU-SPD grand coalition, a third option, would have 79 seats.

The far-right AfD finished in fifth place with 9 per cent, similar to the share of voters who chose from a range of fringe parties.

After the 2021 election disaster attracted international headlines, Berlin authorities went to great lengths this time around, ordering extra ballot papers and paying higher day rates for election station helpers.

Germany’s first-ever election rerun was monitored by a 10-person Council of Europe delegation. According to delegation head Vladimir Prebilic, “everything went well”.