Franziska Giffey looks pale and serious when she appears in front of the press on Monday after the SPD committee meetings. The long election night has left its mark. Berlin's governing mayor had to tremble for more than six hours after the CDU's clear election victory to at least finish as the second strongest force. In the end, their Social Democrats were 105 votes ahead of the Greens. 105 votes. That's all that's left of the social-democratic glory in Berlin.
The SPD is not ahead in any of the twelve districts. The Social Democrats were only able to win four out of 78 constituencies in the city – the CDU 48 and the Greens 20. Giffey was not even able to win her own constituency in Neukölln. In short: For the SPD, this repeat election was a debacle. The 18.4 percent share of the vote is the historically worst figure for the Social Democrats in the city's history. It can make your face pale at times.
Especially since the discussions about how to proceed are already in full swing. The deputy state party leader Kian Niroomand pleads for an honest review. "The result is a turning point for us," he said on Monday. "It can't go on like this." The SPD had to "accept their election defeat with humility" and question how they wanted to position themselves for the future. "The mood after this hell election is crappy at best," says Kevin Hönicke, district mayor in Lichtenberg and assessor on the SPD board. “Regardless of the constellation: there can be no business as usual. Everything has to be put to the test," he says to WELT.
The fact that Giffey claims to lead a government for Berlin seems a bit more presumptuous for the CDU one day after the victory than on the election night itself. But she sticks to it.
One respects the fact that the CDU is of course the first to invite to talks. And of course you will explore common ground, says Giffey. But until the appointment of a new state government, the Senate is fully capable of acting. "And what this state government will look like will of course depend on who is able to organize a stable political majority in the House of Representatives."
The incumbent red-green-red alliance has this majority for a new edition. Greens top candidate Bettina Jarasch indirectly accepted Giffey's claim to leadership on Monday: "105 votes are 105 votes." Jarasch made it sufficiently clear that she would rather continue in the left-wing coalition than coalition with the strengthened CDU.
Giffey says they will now talk to all democratic parties and see how they can meet their responsibilities. "We accept the result with humility, but as the second strongest force, we also claim to be able to help govern this city." The federal party has backed her for this.
But Giffey also speaks of “needs for change”. Giffey says that the citizens want changes, especially in the areas of internal security, transport, housing construction and administrative reform. She once again refers to the fact that with only 13 months in office, she simply did not have enough time to finally process all these fields. "Even the official bonus does not take effect after 13 months as it does after five years," says Giffey. What she doesn't say: the SPD has led the Senate in Berlin without interruption since 2001.
“All in all, the question arises as to what is personally attributable to her and what is not. Even if parts of their balance sheet are positive, this is lost in the general unrest about the poor performance of the administration," says party researcher Gero Neugebauer. "Public opinion doesn't differentiate there." He thinks it's a mistake that Giffey went into the election campaign without making a coalition statement, instead of professing commitment to your government alliance. "Maybe she could have scored better with a clear perspective of power."
That's how you see it in the party. "We made the CDU strong because we didn't appear united as a Senate, but allowed ourselves to be divided," says Kevin Hönicke. "We should have acted confidently and united as the Senate in order to make the voters an attractive offer." He is skeptical as to whether a "three-way constellation of losers is the right answer for the city".
The Jusos, on the other hand, are in favor of continuing the left-wing alliance. "The left-wing camp, led by the SPD, continues to have the most stable majority to master the many challenges," they said on Monday. At the same time, however, they call for a "relentless review" of the outcome of the election. One was "dismayed by the shift to the right" in the Berlin election. "This result cannot remain without consequences in terms of personnel and content."
What that means for Giffey, nobody wants to say openly on Monday. Only party researcher Neugebauer expresses what is a possibility: "I do not think it is impossible that she will renounce the state presidency."
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