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Berlin election: reactions

September 19, 2016

Viable coalitions in Berlin now need a minimum of three parties. The SPD has said it sees the most overlap with the Greens and the Left Party, although it will also talk to its current partner, the Christian Democrats.

Berlin votes in its 2016 national assembly
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

Yesterday's elections in Berlin saw the SPD-CDU grand coalition voted out. Both of Germany's traditional top parties logged record-low post-war results in the nation's capital, failing to win a controlling majority between them.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD), which won 21.6 percent of the vote, may now seek to form a governing coalition with the Greens and the Left Party.

Berlin's SPD mayor, Michael Müller, said that he was prepared to begin talks with all parties except for the Alternative for Germany (AfD), but that he saw the most overlap with the Greens and Left Party.

The SPD's chairman Sigmar Gabriel said: "Berlin remains social and fair."

Berlin Wahlen zum Abgeordnetenhaus Michael Müller und Sigmar Gabriel
Image: Reuters/H. Hanschke

Political scientist and parliamentary researcher Gero Neugebauer said the prospect of a SPD-Green-Left Party coalition was good for democracy. "One shouldn't be afraid of these developments," he told the local "Berliner Zeitung" newspaper. "A thoroughly democratic quality can be established here, based on establishing consensus and finding comprises."

However, Neugebauer admitted the interests represented in the general assembly would also be narrower. "The type of system that takes shape depends on the people and their willingness to find compromises."

Infografik Abgeordnetenhauswahl Berlin 2016 Englisch

More CDU backlash against Merkel

The results again troubled Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU). The party hit a record low in Berlin with 17.6 percent of the vote.

The CDU candidate Frank Henkel described it as a bad day for Germany's traditional top parties. He blamed himself for his party's showing in Berlin, though he refused to resign.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle, the CDU Member of the European Parliament, David McAllister, highlighted that both the Christian Demmocrats and the SPD lost on voter shares.

"Undoubtedly, yesterday evening was disappointing for the CDU in Berlin, but if you look at the results, it was Social Democrats and Christian Democrats who both lost nearly five percent," he said.

McAllister also refused to lay the blame for the CDU's disappointing result on Merkel. "A lot of reasons for this outcome of the elections are to be found in Berlin and in the regional Berlin policy," he said. "I think the CDU in Berlin will carefully analyze the result and try to find out where they can do better."

Berlin Wahlen zum Abgeordnetenhaus Jörg Meuthen und Georg Pazderski Wahlparty AfD
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

AfD: Party is good for democracy

The right-wing protest Alternative for Germany (AfD) entered the Berlin assembly after picking up 14.2 percent of the vote. Even in cosmopolitan Berlin, the anti-migrant party successfully surpassed the five percent threshold to enter the assembly in the majority of districts. The AfD will govern in seven Berlin councils.

The party's lead candidate, Georg Pazderski, said the AfD bolstered the political landscape's democratic credentials. "Whenever the AfD has stood for election, the turnout has increased," he said; data showed a large portion of previous non-voters supporting the AfD, as in several other states recently.

The party's leader Jörg Meuthen said that the party was on track to rid the country of Merkel - although in Berlin's case, ousting the CDU from power may end up delivering a more left-of-center government.

The road to 2017

All parties see this election has a precursor for next year's national elections. Gabriel said that establishing a majority on the left of the union was a priority. In a bid to boost their chances, the Left Party is also considering putting forward fewer potential candidates to lead the party than they did in 2013.

Green party co-leader Cem Özdemir also said the Berlin result proved that the ecologists were ready to be part of a serious government. However, when asked if an SPD-Green-Left Party coalition could serve as a model for a national ruling coalition, Özdemir said, "I think the age of political models is over."

For the CDU and its sister party, Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), talk has been about preventing a leftist union from taking shape. The CSU leader, Horst Seehofer, has been a vocal critic of Merkel's open-door refugee policy in recent months.

dm/msh (dpa, AFP)

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