Curious things about redialing: is it still possible, Berlin?

The capital is used to malice, but the breakdown election of September 2021 crowned Berlin's image as a chaos metropolis.

Curious things about redialing: is it still possible, Berlin?

The capital is used to malice, but the breakdown election of September 2021 crowned Berlin's image as a chaos metropolis. The Senate now wants to do better in the repeat election. However, it only becomes really absurd when you try to simply turn back time.

It's a historical embarrassment - even for Berlin, which has stoically cultivated hopeless administrative chaos for years and is still proud of it. Not only the parliamentary elections, but also the federal elections have to be repeated in some districts because of "serious systemic deficiencies". It has never existed in this form before. And the political consequences that a de facto new election will have on the distribution of seats not only in the Berlin Senate, but also in the Bundestag, are currently hardly foreseeable. After all, a lot has happened since the election. People have moved, died or reached voting age. Candidates who failed in the election have looked for other jobs, and some have even switched parties. This is how a few curious special cases came about, which show the full extent of this breakdown choice. Some examples:

Thousands of Berliners have to vote twice

State Returning Officer Stephan Bröchler has already set February 12, 2023 as the date for the complete repetition of the House of Representatives election. The background to this is that, according to the state constitutional court, a period of 90 days must not be exceeded for the re-election. The problem: A different deadline applies to the partial repetition of the federal election in 431 Berlin ballot box and postal voting districts - namely 60 days. However, the Bundestag's decision to repeat the election will not become final until January 2023 at the earliest, because constitutional complaints can still be lodged against it until then. If there is no objection, according to the 60-day deadline, March 5 would be the last possible date.

The federal election can last until 2024

According to legal experts, however, it is likely that there will be at least one, if not several, complaints against the partial rerun of the federal election. The chance that both election dates can be combined again as originally planned is therefore tiny. Because the Federal Constitutional Court would first have to decide on each and every one of the objections - and that can take time. As a result, thousands of Berliners have to prepare themselves for the fact that they will only be allowed to tick the box again in 2024.

Electoral register must be completely renewed

In a big city like Berlin, the composition of the electorate may not change overnight, but it does change a little faster than elsewhere. Since September 26, people have moved in, others have moved away. Voters have died, others have only reached voting age in the first place. For the repetition of the election, they must all be taken into account. This means that the electoral register has to be created from scratch. Names of deceased and emigrants are crossed out, others are added to the list. In the election of the district councilors - all twelve districts have to be elected again - 16-year-olds can already put their cross, in the federal election only 18-year-olds.

Voters lose vote for federal election

For people who have moved within Berlin since the end of September, there is a special situation: If they have moved from a district in which the federal elections have to be repeated, their vote could be lost completely - if they have moved to a district , in which the election does not have to be repeated. The background is that from a total of more than 2,300 electoral districts, the election is only to be repeated in 431 districts.

The same applies to emigrants: people who have moved from the districts in which the election is repeated to another federal state also no longer have the opportunity to cast their vote again - even if they want to. The constitutional lawyer Alexander Thiele therefore considers it important not to speak of a repeat election. "That's the wrong term," says Thiele in an interview with ntv.de. "Strictly speaking, an election cannot be repeated, that is not constitutionally possible. It can only be a new election."

Candidates who no longer want to compete

According to Thiele, repeating the election would also mean that the same candidates and the same state lists would have to stand for election - and that "is highly problematic in terms of democratic theory," says the professor of state theory at the Business and Law School in Berlin. Because it would also mean that candidates who no longer want to compete would have to be presented again. At most, they could resign from their place on the list. Nevertheless, Thiele notes: "What would happen if the people in first and second place had died? Would the party then even want to run for elections with those moving up?" For the lawyer it is clear that only a new list can be decided - even if a state party conference would be necessary.

When a Left is up for election for the Greens

Two cases in which elected candidates have switched sides are also problematic: Stephan von Dassel ran for the Greens last year at number 1 on the list - and was sent into early retirement as district mayor of Mitte after an affair about filling an internal position. If it were to be re-established, he could almost certainly be re-elected to the District Assembly (BVV).

The former Greens politician Ingrid Bertermann also made it into the BVV in Berlin-Mitte, but she changed parties just two months after the election - and is now the parliamentary group manager of the left. In the event of a repeat election with the same lists, you would have to stand again for the Greens. Green voters would also help a left-wing politician into the BVV. "I would have a big stomach ache," says Thiele. "Because that would mean that you no longer use all the knowledge that you have gained since then."

Mayors stay mayors - one way or the other

It is difficult to predict what effect the new election will have on the distribution of seats in the district councils - one thing is clear, however, they will probably not produce new district mayors. Because as elected officials on a temporary basis, they will stay in office until 2026 - regardless of how the distribution of seats in the BVV changes. District mayors can also be voted out of office, but this requires a two-thirds majority. Even Berlin's Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey from the SPD could remain in office, even if the Greens or the CDU were the strongest. An absolute majority (i.e. more than 50 percent of the votes) would be required to vote them out. However, governing without a majority of your own is likely to be quite difficult.

Redial costs 39 million euros

Berlin's Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey from the SPD does not want to leave anything to chance - and will pay a lot of money to ensure that Berliners do not stand in front of the polling stations for hours on election day and, in the worst case, have to go home without having achieved anything. An impressive 39 million euros had been made available for the repeat election in the supplementary budget, she said on Thursday. You could have financed the 29-euro ticket for another month, built 4105 kilometers of pop-up cycle paths or given every Berliner a blue verification tick on Twitter, as the "Berliner Zeitung" researched.

Berlin is used to taking the chaos with humor - at least as long as the many unresolved questions about the re-election or new elections have not been clarified. "We have rarely seen elections have to be repeated," says constitutional lawyer Thiele. So there is not much experience. The risk that there could be further breakdowns is correspondingly high. "I hope that this time the election officials will seek advice on constitutional law so that the constitutional court doesn't end up declaring the repeat election invalid."

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