Berlin's SPD gossip in graphics: Once upon a time there was a social democratic capital

A three percentage point lower election result does not sound like a landslide.

Berlin's SPD gossip in graphics: Once upon a time there was a social democratic capital

A three percentage point lower election result does not sound like a landslide. In fact, however, the SPD's losses in Berlin are enormous. The election gossip affects not only the House of Representatives, but also the district governments, which are so powerful in the city-state.

The year 2001 is one of the most important in the history of the Berlin SPD. With the entry of Klaus Wowereit into the Red City Hall, the Social Democrats finally provided the Governing Mayor again, after they had governed the western part of the city from the early 1950s to the early 1980s with nationally important party figures such as Ernst Reuter and Willy Brandt. Even before the Nazis seized power, Berlin was a stronghold of the SPD. The almost three decades in which the CDU politicians Richard von Weizsäcker and Eberhard Diepgen governed with a short interruption were more of an anomaly from the SPD's point of view.

With "Wowi" another Red moved into the Red City Hall in 2001, but this era could also end after 21 years: After the repetition of the House of Representatives election, the SPD fell far behind the CDU. Franziska Giffey, who came into office after Wowereit and his successor Michael Müller, could have to give up the office of Governing Mayor after only 13 months. But if she continues at the head of a red-green-red alliance, she will have to work with a small SPD faction as well as with districts where the SPD has lost the majority to either the CDU or the Greens.

With its second vote result of 18.4 percent, the SPD scored three points fewer than on September 26, 2021. At that time, the former Federal Minister for Family Affairs and former mayor of the Neukölln district replaced the increasingly hapless acting Müller. Giffey, who was popular despite the fuss about her doctorate, not only benefited from good personal approval ratings, but also from the SPD, which was on the rise in the federal elections that were taking place at the same time. So she heaved the Social Democrats over the 20 percent mark again, after they had been around 15 percent in the polls less than a year before - half of what the popular Wowereit had brought in for himself and his party in 2006.

But Giffey's personal attraction has fizzled out 13 months later. For example: she lost her direct mandate in the southern Neukölln outskirts of Rudow - to a Christian Democrat who had not previously sat in the House of Representatives. It was a similar experience for SPD MPs around Berlin: the SPD lost the outskirts to the CDU led by top candidate Kai Wegner. During the election campaign, he focused primarily on safety and less control of car traffic. Outside the so-called Berlin S-Bahn ring, it was apparently well received.

The consequences for the SPD are epic: they lost their direct mandates to the CDU in all outlying electoral districts. The Christian Democrats jumped from 21 to 48 direct mandates, the SPD fell from 25 direct mandates to 4. That is the level of the Left Party, which is only reasonably strong in the eastern part. Only 4 out of 32 SPD deputies are directly elected. Ten MPs lost their mandates, seven were newly added. Like Giffey, the newcomers were secured with a good place on the list. Those who were kicked out like the domestic politician Tom Schreiber, who is well known beyond Berlin, did not have this security.

From the SPD point of view, the same drama in green took place in the city center - literally. The majority of the inner-city constituencies went to the party of Environment and Transport Senator Bettina Jarasch, whose personal approval ratings were below those of her party. After second votes, the Greens were 105 votes behind the SPD. Of its now 32 MPs, 20 are directly elected. A small loss of 4 direct mandates, but an overall increase of 2 MEPs. The 18.4 percent of the Greens were 0.5 points less than in 2021. Because of the failure of the FDP at the five percent hurdle, the Green Group is still growing.

After the re-election, Berlin is green on the inside and black on the outside, apart from a few SPD and AfD circles. The "Berliner Morgenpost" calculated that the Greens within the S-Bahn ring got 30.6 percent, more than twice as many votes as in the neighborhoods outside (14 percent). Conversely, outside the ring, the CDU was almost twice as popular with 32.3 percent compared to 17.6 percent.

But how can this massive loss of votes be explained? First of all, he confirms a long-term downward trend in the SPD in the capital. Giffey's nomination for 2021 top candidate and the SPD's sudden surge ahead of the federal election were equally bucking the trend. After that, normality returned to Berlin: the SPD fell and fell in the past few months. Giffey complained on election night: "The politics of the last 20 years are now being blamed to a certain extent on me." She had only been in office for 13 months and had initiated many things that had not yet come to fruition.

It is correct: According to all surveys, around two-thirds of Berliners were dissatisfied with the work of the Senate. This dissatisfaction was mainly felt by the party, which has been in the Red City Hall for 21 years and years before that had co-governed as a small coalition partner. Also correct: According to Infratest dimap, the most important issues for voters were security and order, housing and education. All three departments fall under the responsibility of the SPD. She has even occupied the Education Senate for 27 years. Giffey felt the frustration of her party.

Above all, the SPD had a mobilization problem. According to Infratest dimap, of the more than 111,000 votes lost, 78,000 went to the non-voter camp. Only then did 60,000 votes follow, which migrated to the CDU. The Greens were able to wrest 17,000 votes from their major coalition partner, while 29,000 former Greens voters, presumably in anticipation of a close race between Giffey and Wegner, voted Social Democrat this time.

Despite this immense slump in approval, Giffey wants to continue governing if her party lets her and the Greens and Left Party want to continue the existing alliance. But that doesn't make governing any easier. Not only because the Greens have the same number of seats in the House of Representatives as the SPD and are demanding more say. Even in the complicated structure between city-state and districts, things would not get any easier for red-green-red.

The twelve municipal parliaments, the so-called district assemblies (BVV), have a say in residential areas with six-digit populations. Of the previous nine BVVs, in which one of the three governing parties in the Senate had the majority, three are left after the re-election. The Greens dominate there. The SPD has lost three districts. The district mayors are not obliged to have the BVV voted again. Without a majority of your own, however, governing will at least not become any easier.

And above all, it will now be even more complicated for Giffey's Senate to push through the major administrative reform intended to unravel Berlin's complex power structure. The reform could have been a liberation for Giffey's poorly regarded SPD. But then came the re-election - a historic novelty that goes back to the numerous election mishaps in 2021. However, readers of this article already know which party was responsible at the time.