March 5. 2024. 7:35

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Germany: Scholz’s SPD emerges battered from final electoral test before EU elections

A court-mandated rerun of the 2021 national election in Berlin on Sunday (12 February) changed little about the composition of the federal parliament, but voters punished the Social Democrats of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD/S&D) while overall, his three-party ruling coalition lost one seat.

Germany’s constitutional court had ordered a rerun of the national election in some parts of Berlin after the first iteration in 2021 was marred by gaffes such as missing ballot papers and excessive queues.

While the limited range of the repeated election would not have endangered the government majority, it had been seen as a final test for Germany’s unpopular coalition government ahead of June’s EU elections.

Official results published after midnight showed voters deserting the centre-left SPD of Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In the districts where the election was repeated, the party lost nearly a third of its 2021 vote share (7.8%), even though Berlin is deemed a left-wing strong-hold.

Scholz’s pro-market coalition partner FDP also lost about 6% compared to 2021. Moreover, the party lost a seat in parliament as low turnout in Berlin saw the capital losing representation in parliament, with the FDP failing to make up for its lost seats in other regions.

In contrast, the third coalition partner, the Greens, managed to somewhat increase its 2021 results in the respective districts, coming first at 27.7% in the districts that were up for the rerun.

Overall, the outcome did not come as a surprise given the coalition’s low polling numbers, which had been falling over the last year after a series of public feuds over policy. Currently, the three parties collectively stand at about 32%, according to Europe Elects’ polling average.

Imprisoned AfD candidate gains votes

While the SPD’s regional leader in Berlin, Franziska Giffey, stressed in conversation with RBB that her party still remained the strongest political force in Berlin, the opposition CDU and far-right AfD celebrated their gains as they edged up significantly.

In light of the results, the governing mayor of Berlin and CDU regional leader Kai Wegner called on Scholz to change course and to “end his silence on how he will bring the country back into shape”.

Remarkably, an AfD candidate, Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, who has been imprisoned for more than a year, increased her individual result slightly by 0.2% compared to 2021, if at a low level of 5.5%.

Malsack-Winkemann had lost her seat in 2021 and is currently awaiting trial as she was implicated in an alleged plot to topple the German government with support from Russia.

However, as turnout dwindled to about 51% (about 300,000 people), according to the regional election officer, the indicative significance of the election remained limited.

The election officer, Stephan Bröchler, blamed the low turnout on the fact that the ballot would not have changed the majorities in parliament.

“The repeated election did not have the same appeal as [the national elections] in 2021,” he added,”, Bröchler told dpa.

“It’s the point of democratic elections that us as citizens may influence majorities at least to an extent,” he explained.

Read more with Euractiv

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