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How a CDU man could triumph in the green traffic laboratory of all places

Lucas Schaal lives in a small one-room apartment on Friedrichstrasse in Berlin, not far from the Stadtmitte subway station.

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How a CDU man could triumph in the green traffic laboratory of all places

Lucas Schaal lives in a small one-room apartment on Friedrichstrasse in Berlin, not far from the Stadtmitte subway station. So right in the middle. But when he wakes up on the weekends and wants to listen to the sounds of the big city, he hears: nothing. "It has become quiet here on Friedrichstrasse, almost eerily quiet on Sunday mornings," says the 32-year-old. "Almost extinct."

Schaal has a driver's license but has never owned a car. When he campaigns, he tours the neighborhood on his cargo bike. It shouldn't really upset him at all that the Greens are fighting a tough battle with the other parties, the population and the local shopkeepers on Friedrichstrasse. That they have to block the once pulsating lifeline of the city, release it again, block it again.

But Lucas Schaal is upset about that. How the Greens tried to quiet the street to death considers a 'bad joke'. Schaal thinks climate protection is important and that the constant criticism of Berlin should be taken calmly. That it would be better to ensure that grievances are remedied. So Lucas Schaal went into politics, to the CDU. And has now won Friedrichstrasse for itself.

Lucas Schaal joined the Junge Union at the age of 14 and stood for election to the Berlin House of Representatives in 2021. Now he has won the re-election. Even the Christian Democrats would not have believed that beforehand. "We assumed that we might get two candidates in the seven constituencies of Berlin-Mitte, via list places," says Schaal.

But the CDU not only got Schaal's direct mandate there last Sunday, but also another one in Mitte. In the neighborhoods between Leipziger Platz, Alexanderplatz and Moritzplatz, Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse, where the majority of people have voted first for the PDS, then for the Left and later for the SPD in elections to the House of Representatives since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Christian Democrats are now the strongest force.

And with Schaal, the clear winner of the election is a politician who until recently was the office manager of CDU leader Friedrich Merz. This success was so important to him that on the Monday after the election day he proudly referred to Schaal and said: "So the CDU can still win in big cities. Because you can’t get any bigger than around Friedrichstrasse.”

On maps with the election results, the two constituencies in Mitte jut out like two black islands from the neighborhood won by the Greens. If you want to know from Schaal what he thinks is the reason for the success, he says: "Let's go through the constituency."

And he guides you away from Friedrichstrasse to Fischerinsel, into one of the high-rise towers there. The building smells of plastic and the stale haze of the garbage chute. Schaal lived in a tiny apartment for a few years after coming to Berlin in 2012. On the 18th floor. "The view is unique," he says. During storms, you can see how lightning strikes the television tower.

The Rhinelander finds the capital unique, he is fascinated by Berlin. “Things happen much faster here than anywhere else,” he says. Love was one-sided for a long time. When the young man with the beard and horn-rimmed glasses campaigned for the CDU around the residential towers for the first time, the many senior citizens stopped at the stands in their beige jackets and said: "We won't vote for you, you have us." country, the GDR.”

Many GDR functionaries, members of the “security organs”, lived around Fischerinsel, Leipziger Platz and Straße, and in general in what is now the Berlin-Mitte 2 constituency. 100 percent, so to have peace and quiet at the wall. Most of them voted for the PDS, later for the left. But Berlin-Mitte in particular is changing at a particularly breathtaking pace. It will be demolished, rebuilt, gentrified. Established residents are moving away, the former GDR grandees are dying. And with it the automatically left voter reservoir.

Schaal hurries on eastwards towards Kreuzberg. There are dreary places that still radiate the charm of the GDR today. Prefabricated buildings are lined up, in the background you can see the towers of the Mitte thermal power station, and in front of them the little lights of the “Wurstpaten” snack bar. There, Berlin-Mitte is not hip, cool and trendy, but a place for people with low incomes or none at all. With more garbage in the streets, dark corners.

But something is also happening in this neighborhood between the gray blocks of prefabricated buildings. New buildings and townhouses are being built on the wasteland between the slabs, and people with good incomes are moving in – mostly as owners. During the election campaign, there was a large CDU poster near St. Michael's Church. It usually takes three days for it to be torn off, smeared or pasted over, says Schaal.

Nevertheless, a change could also be felt there, between the Spree and the former strip of the Wall. On the corner of Köpenicker Strasse and Heinrich-Heine-Strasse, there are run-down old buildings, worn-out GDR residential machines and completely renovated prefab buildings that are touted as the "home base for urban people". Opposite are quirky clubs like KitKat and brightly lit kebab shops. More contrast is not possible, larger breaks are hardly imaginable in such a small space. All of that is middle, has to be reconciled. Hardly anyone believed the CDU could do that. So far.

"In the 2021 election campaign, people said: 'We won't vote for Laschet.' The CDU in Berlin and in the federal government were thrown into one pot. Now, in this winter election campaign, it was different,” says Schaal. “People stopped. They talked about what bothers them. That nothing works, the littering, the fear of going out on the streets at night. That there has been talk of installing an elevator at the subway station for 20 years.”

It continues, beyond the Spree and Alexanderplatz to the north of the Mitte 2 constituency. In the streets between Hackescher Markt and Rosenthaler Platz, Mitte is the cliché of the stylish place-to-be, as one imagines it to be everywhere in the country , with tattoo shops, burger joints, cafes and the ubiquitous organic supermarkets. One speaks English. Compared to the neighborhood on Heinrich-Heine-Strasse, it's like a different city.

But there, too, the majority of the residents, the chic middle-class people, voted for the CDU. For a long time it was about living in the coolest possible place. “Now people are saying they need the car. And a parking space for it. That they don't want conditions like on Friedrichstrasse," reports Schaal of his conversations with the people on the street. And while he's talking, the traffic rolls over the streets, honking, accelerating sharply, cursing.

Traffic regularly collapses on Leipziger Strasse further south, the featureless, four-lane east-west thoroughfare lined with high-rise apartments. The noise level is high, the air rarely good. If you want to cross the lanes, it is better to take the underpass.

There, at this traffic hotspot, the residents did not choose the green traffic calmers. Lucas Schaal got his best result there.

"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic, analyzed by WELT editors, and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, among others, or directly via RSS feed.

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