In the repeat elections to the 159-seat Berlin State parliament held on Sunday, February 12, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) emerged as the single largest party with 52 (+22) seats and 28.2% of the vote. Even though the incumbent Social Democrats-Greens-Die Linke coalition retained its majority with 90 (-2) seats, the election results served a major blow to the current Berlin State government led by Mayor Franziska Giffey and the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, both of whom hail from the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) secured 17 seats (+4), while the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) drew a blank, losing all the 12 seats it had in the assembly. While some reports suggest that the SPD-Greens-Die Linke coalition is likely to continue in power, an upbeat CDU has hinted at its willingness to hold coalition talks with the SPD and the Greens to form the new executive in Berlin State.
Berlin went into repeat elections on Sunday because of a ruling in November last year by the Constitutional Court of the State of Berlin, which invalidated the elections held to the State parliament on September 26, 2021, citing several irregularities. Meanwhile, housing rights groups in Berlin, including the Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen coalition, have called on the new parliament to stridently push for the socialization of large private real estate companies in the city to tackle the housing crisis.
On September 26, 2021, alongside the federal and Berlin State elections, citizens of the city of Berlin voted in a referendum championed by housing rights groups. 59.1% of voters were in favor of expropriating the property of real estate companies that owned 3,000 or more residential units.
Even though the SPD-Green-Die Linke coalition—which retained power in 2021—set up an expert commission to look into the feasibility of implementing the mandate of the referendum, housing rights groups have been agitated by the slow pace of proceedings and lack of transparency in the expert commission’s functioning.
On February 14, Arnold Schölzel, editor-in-chief of Junge Welt, wrote in an article “that the result of the repeat election in Berlin was an expression of anger at the particularly inept provincial political personnel.” He also said that it was “impossible to say what role the attitude towards arms deliveries to Kiev played in the election decision” since “‘don’t mention war’ was the guiding principle… of all three governing parties” but the “CDU advocated [for] more military equipment to the east,” even if they were “reluctant to make this an issue.” Schölzel also suggested that some of the CDU’s gains could have come from the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Berlin.
On February 12, in a statement, the Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen coalition said that “the socialization of large housing stocks will be the core task of the next Senate. No matter which coalition prevails in the coming weeks, the next government must write a socialization law and present a clear timetable for the expropriation of the large real estate companies. Because what was not up for election again today is the referendum. Almost 60% of Berliners have been waiting for the big corporations to be expropriated since the last election.”
Isabella Rogner, spokesperson for the Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen initiative, stated that the “CDU [had left] no doubt that it [would trample] on the democratic decision of over a million Berliners and is not willing to implement the referendum. But we need an expropriation coalition and call on the supporters of the referendum not to enter into a coalition with those who refuse to expropriate.”