The right has returned to Berlin. Barring a last-minute surprise, Christian Democrat Kai Wegner (CDU) will be elected on Thursday, April 27, to head the German capital, whose mayor’s office has been held by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) since 2001. The SPD will not be joining the opposition, however: after coming second to the CDU in the February 12 elections, the SPD decided to join forces with the CDU to form a majority. As a result, the outgoing mayor, Franziska Giffey, who has governed the city with the Greens and left-wing party Die Linke for the past two years, is expected to remain deputy mayor, in charge of the economy, in the new CDU/ SPD coalition led by the conservative Wegner.
Such a scenario was difficult to imagine. Elected mayor of Berlin in 2021, Giffey should have remained mayor until 2026. However, several irregularities were found and a new election was held on February 12, with unexpected results. The CDU won a much larger victory than expected, with 28.2% of the vote, up 10.2 points from 2021. And the SPD had a sharp decline, winning only 18.4% of the vote (down three points), its worst score in Berlin since the end of the second world war. On February 12, the SPD saved its second place by the skin of its teeth, with a lead of only 53 votes over the Greens, out of more than two million registered voters in the region of Berlin.
In terms of numbers, the Social Democrats could have tried to form a new left-wing majority. But after a few days, Giffey had to face the facts. Instead of trying to hold on to her top position at the head of a left-wing alliance with the Greens and Die Linke, with whom her relations had deteriorated considerably, the outgoing mayor preferred to seize the hand held out to her by the leader of the Christian Democrats. It’s an alliance with the center-right that is not at all unnatural for the woman who was Angela Merkel’s family minister (CDU) from 2018 to 2021 when she had to leave the federal government after accusations of plagiarism in her doctoral thesis.
Unlike Giffey, the future mayor of the German capital is little known to the general public. Originally from Spandau, a middle-class district in West Berlin, Wegner belongs to the conservative wing of the CDU. In the last elections, where he came out on top in all districts except those in the city center, which were dominated by the Greens, this 50-year-old former insurance salesman, who was a member of the Bundestag from 2005 to 2021, won following a resolutely right-wing campaign, summed up by posters with simple slogans such as “more security, more police” or “Berlin, a city for everyone, including motorists.”
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