June 20. 2024. 12:51

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Stance on cars divides city of Berlin in regional election

The result of a regional election in Berlin shows a major victory for the conservative CDU party (EPP), which had campaigned for a functioning city and a stance against banning cars”.

The Conservative CDU has won the regional election in Berlin but might still be unable to form a government due to disagreements with most other parties, including on transport policy.

The CDU was most successful in Berlin’s outer districts, while the Greens scored first in the city centre, indicating a significant divide between the centre and the outskirts.

Campaigns were also fought on transport policy, notably the future role of cars in the city centre, as the Greens want to make space for new and broader cycle paths.

The CDU blamed the Greens for an anti-car policy after the group leader Werner Graf announced in an interview that to reach that goal, he wants to reduce parking lots by half within a decade.

“Berlin is for everyone, also for car drivers,” a CDU election poster had read.

Transport policy major dividing line

According to exit polls by German broadcaster ARD, 45% of voters agree to an “expansion of cycle paths at the expense of car traffic”, with 49% disagreeing.

Meanwhile, a slim majority of voters (53%) agree to a further extension of city motorway A100, also supported by CDU, with 36% saying they are opposed. The CDU had argued that the planned road in the East of Berlin could be realised as a “climate highway” with solar panels on top and would reduce car traffic in some residential areas.

But many within the Green party see the expansion of highways as incompatible with climate targets and therefore want to stop the project, which had caused a long-ongoing dispute.

CDU election posters also read, “Berlin, don’t let them ban you from the car”, hinting at a dispute about the high road Friedrichstraße, which Green transport Senator Bettina Jarasch had turned into a pedestrian area only weeks before the election, with critics saying this happened without properly consulting residents.

SPD lost but could continue governing

The election came after the regional elections of 2021 had to be repeated due to organisational mistakes, which led to a lack of voting ballots and long waiting hours in many voting stations.

The governing social democratic party (SPD), blamed for the disaster by most voters, lost voter support and attained their historically worst result.

The party tried to please voters from both the car-dominant outskirts and the centre with the promise of a permanent “€29 ticket” (monthly subscription) for public transportation, which was temporarily introduced in Berlin as a reaction to the cost-of-living crisis.

At the federal level, a similar “€49 ticket” will be introduced in May, which, unlike its Berlin counterpart, will be valid for regional and local public transport throughout Germany.

Despite not convincing as many voters as before, Mayor Franziska Giffey might continue her leftist coalition with the Greens and the Left party, which reached a majority in the regional parliament.

Giffey’s SPD reached only 105 votes more than the Greens, according to the preliminary final result, something that might change with districts being recounted.

When asked about a potential coalition with the Greens before the election, CDU mayoral candidate Kai Wegner said: “What Ms Jarasch and the Greens said over the last weeks and months, I will not do,” adding that “I don’t want this transport policy for Berlin, it doesn’t fit Berlin”.

“The Greens would need to move very much, which they won’t do, so I cannot imagine a coalition with the Greens after the election,” Wegner added.

Pro-car stance no guarantee to being elected

Meanwhile, the liberal FDP party has lost its seats in the regional parliament as it did not make the 5% threshold needed to secure seats in the house.

The party, which also holds the German transport ministry at the federal level, campaigned against the Greens, arguing that there cannot be a “transport policy against cars”.

The party might now harden its stance in the ongoing dispute at the federal level over carbon emissions targets in the transport sector, as the party feels the need to gain profile against its left-of-centre coalition partners on the federal level.

A potential coalition partner for regional CDU Berlin could be SPD, which is unlikely if Giffey stays mayor as head of a left-wing coalition.

On transport policy, the SPD tried to hold the middle ground, with Giffey arguing that “there cannot be a situation in which all groups get 100% of what they want”.

Conservatives secure clear lead in Berlin rerun election

The conservative CDU was crowned the clear winner in the rerun regional election in the traditionally left-leaning capital on Sunday, ousting the Social Democrats but likely not denying the rule of a future left-wing coalition.

While Berlin held regional elections in …