If one coalition partner attacks the other, this is usually an indication of a tricky political constellation. The Senate made up of the SPD, the Greens and the Left Party in Berlin is in such a situation. Werner Graf, leader of the Greens, hardly held back on Thursday in the House of Representatives. “Berlin isn’t working as it should,” he told the Social Democrats. “You feel like Asterix and Obelix looking for an A38 pass.”
It was day one after a political earthquake in the city that had already been announced at the end of September. On Wednesday, the Berlin Constitutional Court ruled that the elections to the House of Representatives and to the district assemblies were invalid due to multiple glitches and would therefore have to be repeated in their entirety. Last week, the Bundestag had already decided that 431 of the more than 2,200 Berlin polling stations would have to vote again on the German Parliament.
Last fall, the then Interior Senator from the SPD, Andreas Geisel, was responsible for legal supervision. On Thursday, Berlin’s governing mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) made the government statement, which was already a good part of the election campaign. Because the constitutional judges had also opened this with their judgment.
“A life-changing experience for our city”
As in one of these Russian Matryoshka dolls, there is another complicated constellation in every difficult situation in Berlin. For Giffey, it consists in the fact that although she is the Governing Mayor of the SPD, she actually had nothing to do with the electoral glitch of her Social Democratic predecessor. So in her speech she had to find the right mix of humility in the face of this disgrace and confidence in her first year in office. Since the former Federal Minister for Family Affairs is not one who looks backwards much or even quarrels, she decided above all to be confident.
“It is a drastic experience for our city, which also affects me as a Berliner,” she said at the beginning of her statement in the House of Representatives. She then went on to discuss everything the Senate has done to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated in the re-election, which is expected to take place on February 12th. New state returning officer, clearer distribution of competences between state and districts, better equipment. The second attempt will cost a total of 39 million euros. “I want Berlin to fulfill the requirements of a capital.” And that despite a triple burden since the beginning of the year from the corona pandemic, war refugees and energy shortages. “We’ve been in crisis mode the whole time,” Giffey said.
A supplementary budget of three billion euros is now intended to help Berliners through the winter. These include a hardship fund for households that can no longer pay their energy bills and money for Berlin companies. Because all plans for a social and “functioning city” could only become reality “with a strong economy”. “We feel bound by the promise to make Berlin the capital of the future,” said Giffey.
Kai Wegner, head of the Berlin CDU and top candidate for the office of governing mayor, varied a well-known motto of the city in the face of the election debacle: “Poor but sexy is unbelievable but true.” Wegner demanded an apology from the Governing Mayor to the Berliners. “I would have expected more humility,” he said. “Berliners just want to be proud of a functioning city, and they can’t be that.”
All opposition parties agreed that the former interior senator and current building senator would have to resign. “Mr. Geisel, step back,” Wegner said. “Mr. Geisel, finally resign,” demanded the party and faction leader of the AfD, Kristin Brinker. “I am ashamed of the political actors who do not have the necessary backbone to take responsibility for this,” was the variation of the FDP parliamentary group leader Sebastian Czaja.