(Bloomberg) — Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats crashed to their worst result in Berlin on Sunday, failing to win an election in the German capital for the first time since 1999 as the conservative Christian Democrats surged to victory.
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According to preliminary projections cited by public broadcaster ARD, the CDU was the strongest party in 2021 with 27.8%, compared to 18%. Support for the SPD, led by Mayor Franziska Giphy, fell from 21% to 18.7%, while the Greens were also at 18.7%, close to their 2021 result of 19%.
While the result will be seen as a victory for the Christian Democrats – and its main candidate Kai Wegener – it will not necessarily lead to a CDU-led coalition. Wegner lacks the support of other parties, which he would need to lead any viable city government.
If Giffi fails to hold on to power, she could be replaced by Bettina Jarash, the Greens’ top Berlin lawmaker in the current three-way coalition with the left-wing party.
“We ran with a clear message that we want Berlin to work,” Wegener told cheering supporters in Berlin, adding that he planned to hold coalition talks in the coming days.
“It is our job now – and the voters have given it to us – to form a stable government, a government that works together in a trustworthy way,” he said. “We want to form a government that really gets down to business, that solves Berlin’s problems.”
Gieff was appointed to run Germany’s capital after winning a regional vote held in September 2021 on the same day Scholz was swept as chancellor in the most recent national election. A repeat was ordered by Berlin’s top court due to irregularities including missing voting slips and logistical problems.
He ran a bland campaign that lacked a concrete plan to address one of the city’s most pressing problems: the lack of affordable housing. Wegner was able to exploit public outrage over the violent scenes on New Year’s Eve with a strong message on security and law and order.
“This result shows that the people of Berlin are not satisfied with the current situation,” a grim-looking Jiffy told ARD TV. He did not rule out continuing in office, but said that the full outcome must be known before any decision is taken.
The Greens’ Jarash said the ruling three parties maintained a clear majority and supported the party continuing a coalition with the SPD and the left – ideally under their leadership.
The SPD’s disastrous performance will be seen as a blow to Scholz, who has been in trouble since Russia invaded Ukraine over a perceived lack of strong leadership and an apparent reluctance to get military aid to the government in Kiev as quickly as possible. and has come in for criticism abroad. ,
The Social Democrats have been trailing the conservative CDU/CSU coalition nationally since the middle of last year, polls show. However, Scholz’s personal approval rating is still significantly higher than that of any of the main opposition figures, including Friedrich Merz, chairman of the Christian Democratic Union.
Scholz’s Free Democrat coalition partners at the federal level looked set to walk out of the Berlin state parliament, with projections showing their support had dropped below the 5% threshold. The far-right AfD gained support compared to 2021, rising from 8% to 9%.
This could pose problems for the chancellor as FDP chairman Christian Lindner, who is also finance minister, will be less inclined to compromise as his coalition with the Greens seeks to advance its agenda.
According to a decision by Bundestag lawmakers in November, the national vote should also be repeated in Berlin, but only in a fifth of the city’s 2,257 polling stations. No date has been set for potential court challenges.
There are three more regional elections in Germany this year – on May 14 in the city of Bremen and October 8 in Bavaria and Hesse. The next national election is due in the fall of 2025.
(Updated with latest estimates)
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