Germany: the right and the extreme right rise in Berlin’s partial election rerun

The German capital has not survived its third election in four years immune. Although broadly speaking, the Bundestag does not alter its composition, it is only reduced by one deputy, the results show a defeat for the traffic light government. All opposition parties in the Bundestag, from the CDU, the AfD to the Left, made gains, while two of the traffic light coalition partners suffered significant losses. The SPD fell by 7.8 percentage points and the general secretary of the FDP must leave his position in Parliament.

By Carolina Menéndez Trucco

In a context of growing mobilization and massive marches against the rise of the far right, the results in Berlin could be a wake-up call for the government coalition led by the social democrat Olaf Scholz with the support of greens and liberals. The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) lost and the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Alternative for Alternative (AfD) won in the electoral repetition. A warning sign for Germany’s future? The blow, especially for two of the partners of the traffic light coalition, not only highlights the discontent with the government and the unrest that drove hundreds of thousands to the streets in recent weeks, also as a preview of the possible results for the right and the extreme right in the next elections at the federal level. The Scholz cabinet’s austerity and anti-immigration policy only cooled the polls, and citizen participation was what ended up defining the game. Due to the low turnout of practically 50%, the state of Berlin lost four mandates and will now only be represented by 25 politicians in the Bundestag.

The third time’s the charm. Half a million or one in seven Berliners were once again called to the polls. The capital has been forced to repeat on Sunday the 11th the federal elections held two and a half years ago due to a series of irregularities in 455 electoral districts. Long lines, a shortage of voting booths and a lack of ballots, among other mishaps that meant that thousands of people could not exercise their right to vote, led the Federal Constitutional Court to order a partial repetition. But not for the first time, Berlin had already repeated the state elections on February 12, 2023, also due to irregularities that resulted in a change of mayor and government coalition. On this occasion, although it was clear that the scoreboard was not going to change too much, since only a fifth of the electoral colleges could suffer an impact, the numbers ended up reflecting reality.

The results

The right and the extreme right are the big winners. The CDU rose 6.9% and the AfD 5.6%. The Social Democrats dropped 7.8 percentage points, while the Liberals lost two-thirds of their vote share. The FDP parliamentary group also lost a seat in the Bundestag without a replacement. The director of the Berlin FDP, Lars Lindemann, has to resign from his mandate after the new elections. The Greens, the only coalition partner slightly favored by the repetition, reached 27.7%, improving their result by 0.5%. The Berlin left paradoxically improved 0.1% in the partial repetition of the 2021 federal elections; but since the party received fewer votes due to lower citizen participation, Bundestag member Pascal Meiser must resign from the parliamentary seat he won in 2021.

On the other hand, the left-wing politician from Hesse, Christine Buchholz, won a mandate in the Bundestag, however she did not want to accept it due to her differences with the political line of Die Linke and the parliamentary group. Jörg Cezanne will take her place in Parliament. An atypical vote. Only parties and candidates that had already participated in the ordinary federal elections of 2021 were allowed to stand for election. Neither the newly founded Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW) nor the Union of Values founded by the former head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maaßen. But to the tone of alarm about the general results, a worrying fact was added: that deputy Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, a coup suspect, ran as an AfD candidate while in custody and was even able to improve her result in 2021.

In short, the federal mini-elections in Berlin did not change the game board much, but they could be a preview of what is to come and undoubtedly a reflection of social discontent and fear of a possible regime change. Although there were no changes in the twelve direct Bundestag mandates at stake in the capital and the parliament was reduced by one seat to only 735 members, the rise of extremist parties is unfortunately a fact and was reflected at the polls. The social democratic government together with its partners with their policies of continuous attacks on immigrants and social cuts only strengthens the same line of the CDU and the AfD. For this reason, the way to combat the feared rise of the right and the extreme right is the fight for a true socialist alternative, strengthening the revolutionary leaderships, as well as the mobilizations, as has been well demonstrated by the more than one and a half million people resisting in the streets in recent weeks.