German conservatives hail rare ‘big city’ win in Berlin
BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s main opposition party on Monday celebrated its victory in a Berlin state election re-run made necessary by serious voting glitches in 2021, arguing that the result shows the party can appeal to voters in urban areas with center-right policies that include tough talk on immigration.
The Christian Democratic Union of former Chancellor Angela Merkel has struggled for years with declining support in major cities and last governed the capital in 2001. On Sunday, the party came first with 28.2% of the vote, gaining 10 percentage points as the three parties that made up the leftist regional government all lost supporters.
“This re-election result shows that the CDU can win in big German cities,” the party’s main candidate, Kai Wegner, told reporters.
He planned to hold talks with the center-left Social Democrats and the environmentalist Greens about swiftly forming a new coalition government. Both of those parties received 18.4% of the vote, a particularly grim result for the Social Democrats of Mayor Franziska Giffey, who took much of the blame after the chaotic election failures two years ago.
During the election campaign conservatives also attacked her government as being soft on crime following an outburst of violence against first responders during New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The Christian Democrats’ national leader, Friedrich Merz, claimed the attacks were the result of a “little Pasha” mentality among youths in some immigrant communities, prompting accusations of racism from the left.
Wegner was unapologetic Monday, saying that “we need to name problems in order to solve them together.”
But he insisted that his goal now was “to form a successful Berlin coalition that brings this city together again” and tackles some of its many problems, from lack of affordable housing to run-down schools and slow bureaucracy.
Doing so successfully could boost the conservatives’ chances at the national level, where the CDU came a narrow second behind the Social Democrats in 2021.
The Green party’s leader in Berlin, Bettina Jarasch, said she was willing to discuss a coalition with the CDU but made clear her preference for continuing the existing three-party government with the Social Democrats and the ex-communist Left despite their diminished majority.
The Greens, whose strongholds are in Berlin’s inner districts, have repeatedly clashed with conservatives on the issue of restricting car access to the city center.
Wegner, 50, made clear Monday that he would oppose efforts seen in other cities, such as Paris, London and New York, to promote cycling, walking and public transport at the expense of motorists.
“With me there won’t be any one-sided politics against cars,” he said.