Berlin SPD elects new leadership duo – Politics

The Berlin SPD has a new dual leadership. Neukölln’s district mayor Martin Hikel and the former sports secretary Nicola Böcker-Giannini are to bring the party, which has been losing support in the capital for years, back to the forefront. The delegates followed the result of a member survey, but support for the new state leaders is rather moderate: In separate individual elections, Hikel received only 65.5 percent and Böcker-Giannini 67.6 percent of the votes. She then spoke of an “honest result”.

But it also shows how divided the Berlin SPD is on many issues. The left wing has traditionally had a lot of influence within the party, while the new dual leadership represents more bourgeois-conservative positions. Several delegates therefore called at the state party conference on Saturday to respect the result of the member survey and vote for Hikel and Böcker-Giannini, despite differences of opinion. In a runoff vote, they won with around 58 percent against Kian Niroomand and Jana Bertels.

:Giffey is taking herself out of the race – unfortunately

The SPD politician no longer wants to run for party chair. That is consistent. And a loss.

Comment by Jan Heidtmann

The duo succeeds the previous state chairmen Franziska Giffey and Raed Saleh, under whom the Berlin SPD was punished with 18.4 percent in the repeat election last year. The former Federal Minister for Family Affairs had already announced at the beginning of the year that she did not want to run again. Saleh tried again with Luise Lehmann, but failed in the first round with just 15.7 percent.

In her speech, the recently unlucky Giffey emphasized the need for “a substantive, structural and also personnel renewal.” She sees great challenges ahead for her successors: Hikel and Böcker-Giannini must bring the party back together and give it a unified direction, she said. Current polls, in which the SPD only gets 15 percent, cannot satisfy the party. “We must work together to be more successful again,” emphasized Giffey, and to do this the Berlin SPD must also remember what made it strong in the 2021 election victory. “These are the issues that we need to deal with and that we need to communicate better.” What is needed is a policy that talks to people and tries to clearly identify problems and then work through them consistently.

In view of all the crises in the world, Giffey appealed to her party not to lose itself in conflict. Unity and solidarity are the elementary conditions for people to put their trust in the Berlin SPD again. “If the party’s currents always emphasize what divides us and do not put what unites us first,” warned Giffey, “then the SPD will no longer be the strongest political force in the capital Berlin in the long run.” “Unity in diversity” is the motto for the upcoming European elections and the state association should also be guided by this, said Giffey: “Let us not allow our political opponents to rub their hands together when we fall out.”

Security as an issue

Hikel and Böcker-Giannini also called for more unity within their own ranks when they were introduced. Only if the party trusts itself again will the people of Berlin trust it again, said Böcker-Giannini: “If we don’t manage to do this, the Berlin SPD is in danger of being sidelined for a long time.” Hikel stressed that there must be an end to “intra-party insults, backbiting and an excess of complacency.” With their candidacy, he and Böcker-Giannini stand for inner-party unity, explained Hikel: “Our task is to also involve those who did not vote for us.”

The duo named social housing, equal opportunities in education and a “strong state” that ensures greater security in the capital as core issues. But this also requires the courage to review previous answers to see if they are effective. The state leaders were referring in particular to the concept of free travel and the 29-euro ticket. “Strong shoulders must carry more than weak ones so that our society holds together,” said Hikel, and called for a fair distribution of wealth: “This is the only way we can regain lost trust.”

So will everything be better with the new dual leadership? The Berlin SPD has actually become even more divided since the state party conference. During the week, Saleh was confirmed as parliamentary group leader with 25 of 33 votes. He single-handedly brought forward the elections rumored for June and thus secured his position of power in the House of Representatives. Hikel and Böcker-Giannini, on the other hand, quickly suffered a setback: only one of the two candidates they had supported as deputy state leaders was elected. The result is that Hikel and Böcker-Giannini do not have a clear majority there and have to assert themselves against the left wing in all decisions.

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