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Berlin state elections must be repeated, court rules

Berlin state elections must be repeated, court rules

Last year’s regional elections in the German capital had ‘serious systemic flaws.’
Last year’s regional elections to the Berlin state parliament must be repeated, the German capital’s constitutional court ruled Wednesday.

In a damning verdict for authorities in the German capital, the court declared the election results for the Berlin House of Representatives and local district councils invalid. However, the decision does not affect the outcome of Germany’s general election, which took place on the same day.

Citing “serious systemic flaws” in the preparation of the elections, presiding judge Ludgera Selting ruled that the election must be repeated within 90 days, describing the situation as “unique … in the history of elections in the Federal Republic of Germany.” State Election Commissioner Stephan Bröchler said February 12, 2023 was the most likely date for the re-run.

On September 26, 2021, four votes were held on the same day in Berlin: the general election for the German federal parliament, the regional election for the Berlin city-state, local district elections, and a referendum on bringing some housing under government control.

Berlin was also hosting a marathon that day, and the result was chaos.

There were incorrect, missing or hastily copied ballots, too few ballot boxes, long lines with waiting times that sometimes lasted for hours, and votes cast after the closing time at 6 p.m.

According to the court, the standard of democratic elections was not met, and therefore a re-run is needed.

New elections are likely to change the political equilibrium in the state parliament, where the current mayor Franziska Giffey leads a coalition of her center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) with the Greens and the far-left Die Linke. According to current polls, the SPD is head-to-head with the Greens and the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Should the state government change as a result of the repeated elections, it could also affect the political balance in the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament.

Berlin’s CDU group — the largest opposition party — said the court ruling was a “heavy defeat” for Giffey.

“It is a low point for Berlin’s reputation in Germany and the world,” local CDU Secretary-General Stefan Evers said.

The Berlin SPD, meanwhile, sought to shift away the blame from Giffey toward former SPD mayor Michael Müller, who was in charge of overseeing the previous election, and argued that such failures would not happen under the new leader.

“There will not be a flawed election like last time with governing mayor Franziska Giffey,” the party said on Twitter.

Although Wednesday’s decision does not affect the votes in the general election that were cast in Berlin that day, the deficiencies that hampered elections in Berlin will likely lead to political consequences.

Last week, the German federal parliament voted to partially repeat the federal election in the capital. Citizens in 431 out of 2,257 Berlin electoral districts will again have to cast their first and second votes.

However, this could still be challenged by opposition parties before the Federal Constitutional Court in order to force a repeat of the general election across all of Berlin. As with the Berlin regional elections, it is expected that the final decision will rest with the court.
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