By Gulsum Orhan
The Berlin elections were the last of a series of elections in Germany this year. On Sunday, the September 18, the those living in the capital of the Federal Republic elected a new Berlin Parliament. It is difficult to say exactly who the winner was, but the fact is that the Socialist candidate Klaus Wowereit will continue to be mayor for the third time.
Another fact is that the Liberals came out of the elections badly again. It is the fifth time in a row they lost seats in a State Parliament. Actually, they are represented in just eleven State Parliaments. With 1.8% of the vote, they were not even able to pass the five percent threshold, just like during the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern elections two weeks ago. This is quite surprising because the FDP, especially party leader Philipp Rösler, has followed a euro-skeptical policy in recent days, in line with the view of the majority of the population concerning this issue. This shows that the preferences of the voters can be influenced by neither the European issues nor the euro crisis.
To come back to the results: they are definitely unsatisfactory, since even the Nationalist Party (NPD) performed better. The reasons for this breakdown were the chaotic circumstances the Liberals had to struggle with in the last few months. The German voters seem to be fed up with quarrels and disagreements inside the political party. Their party leader was replaced earlier this year and conflicts within the party seem to be without end. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had abdicated his leadership of the party and given his seat to the 38-year-old Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Economics and Technology Philipp Rösler. Several months ago, Westerwelle was expected to give up his job as Foreign Minister; however, he is still in office. The statement of Wolfgang Kubicki (head of the FDP faction in the State Parliament of Schleswig-Holstein) was straight to the point: “The Party has failed in general as a brand name.”
The Liberals have not only suffered themselves, but also harmed the Christian Democrats who are their coalition partners. Their candidate, Frank Henkel, obtained 23.4% of the vote, 2.1% more than in 2006. But, nevertheless, life is going to be tough for this party; because of the failures of their coalition partner, the opposition has started raising its voice against the government with the aim of holding early elections. It is said that the government has lost its authenticity and that the population does not have any confidence in the Merkel government. Time will tell whether they will be successful with this demand.
The party most pleased with the election results seems to be the Social Democrats. Their candidate Klaus Wowereit got 28.3% of the vote, 2.5% less than in 2006. Wowereit has been ruling Berlin as the head of a “red-red” (SPD-The Left) coalition for almost ten years now. Before the elections, he did not shy away from expressing his wishes concerning the results: he remarked that he would be content with a coalition with the Green Party or “The Left,” but stated that he would not mind a coalition with the Christian Democrats either. He seems to have succeeded in advancing their issues where other SPD politicians, such as Steinmeier and Gabriel, had failed. Although he has achieved a common purpose, there seems to be tension within the party caused by divergent points of view. Nonetheless, as a successful politician, Wowereit is said to be the next candidate for the SPD Chancellorship.
Despite the fact that the Greens have gained a further 74,000 votes compared to the last elections, they are especially disappointed because their candidate Renate Künast was expected to gain over 20% of the vote. Some say that it was decisive for Green voters that Künast did not publicly dismiss the possibility of a coalition with the CDU for a very long time. That might have annoyed some voters on the left and influenced their voting behavior. Nonetheless, the Greens may hope for a coalition with the SPD.
The candidate of the Left Party, Harald Wolf, also said that they were disappointed by the fact that they had not reached their aims. With 11.7% of the vote, their loss was at least 1.7%. The head of the faction in the German Parliament, Gregor Gysi, remarked that his party has to become more attractive, especially for young people. For now, they will have to make the best of their position as an opposition party, as their election results are not enough to build a coalition in the State Parliament.
The Pirate Party is also satisfied, as for the first time, it has permission to move to Parliament. Demands, such as better data privacy, more freedom of information, and more direct democracy, have helped them reach 8.9% of the vote. This is a very remarkable achievement, when one considers the blunder that occurred regarding the indebtedness of Berlin. When asked about the size of the debt of the city, the Pirates mentioned “many, many millions,” even though the actual debt runs in the billions of euros. With their exotic appearance, the Pirates have scored particularly well, especially among the young and first-time voters.