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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Court decision: House of Representatives election in Berlin must be repeated

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Berlin can’t do some things, critics say, pointing to the airport, for example. Now it’s official: the capital can’t hold elections either.

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Gossip for politics, start of the election campaign and trembling for Berlin’s head of government Franziska Giffey (SPD): The election to the Berlin House of Representatives, which was characterized by numerous mishaps, has to be repeated in its entirety. The Berlin Constitutional Court ruled that the vote on September 26, 2021 was invalid due to “serious systemic deficiencies”.

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This puts Berlin in the middle of the election campaign. Giffey, who leads a red-green-red coalition, has to tremble for her seat in the Red City Hall. The latest polls saw the SPD behind the Greens or on a par with its government partner and also the CDU. State Returning Officer Stephan Bröchler set February 12, 2023 as the date for the repetition, which also affects the twelve district parliaments.

Current Parliament temporarily allowed to continue working

According to the court, the current parliament can continue to work until the new parliament is constituted. Since this is a repeat election and not a new one, the legislative period ends in 2026. The parties must run with the same candidates as in 2021.

In addition to the elections for the House of Representatives and the local parliaments, the federal elections and a referendum on the expropriation of large housing groups also took place in Berlin on September 26, 2021. The Berlin marathon also ran alongside. Massive problems followed as a result of this concentration and poor preparation.

“Many serious electoral errors”

From the point of view of the Constitutional Court, there were a “numerous serious electoral errors” – both during the preparation and on the day of the election itself. These were relevant to the mandate – so they had an impact on the composition of parliament. The principle of universality, equality and freedom had been violated.

Court President Ludgera Selting cited wrong, missing or hastily copied ballots, too few ballot boxes, the temporary closure of polling stations and long queues in front of the polling stations with waiting times of sometimes several hours as examples of electoral errors. In around half of the 2,256 polling stations, voters still voted after 6 p.m.

The court cited some figures as evidence for its decision: At least 20,000 people could not have cast their votes for the second vote alone. According to this, the AfD had already gained 2,000 more votes for another seat in the House of Representatives, the Greens were missing 10,000 votes for another seat. 88 of 147 parliamentary seats were affected by electoral errors relevant to the mandate.

Judgment so far unique in Germany

The verdict on a complete re-election due to massive mistakes is unique in this form in Germany. The Hamburg constitutional court had declared the 1991 citizenship elections invalid, but for different reasons: the CDU had put forward their candidates illegally. As a result, there was a new election in 1993 after the parliament had dissolved.

The Berlin decision is not without controversy – even in the ranks of the Constitutional Court. President Selting announced that the verdict was passed with a vote of 7:2. A number of politicians and legal experts had advocated a partial repetition in the past few months.

Bundestag elections are only repeated in 431 constituencies

The Bundestag elections are going in this direction: Based on a recommendation by its election examination committee, the Bundestag decided last week with the votes of the traffic light parliamentary groups SPD, Greens and FDP that it must be repeated in 431 Berlin ballot box and postal voting districts. However, the parliamentary groups assume that the decision will be challenged before the Federal Constitutional Court.

The Berlin court, on the other hand, stuck to its line of a complete repetition, which it had already announced in a hearing at the end of September. In addition, it saw no reason to submit the matter to the judges in Karlsruhe, as the Senate administration had suggested. “There is no new legal standard,” said Selting. “What’s new is the fact that a court has never had to decide on it before.”

CDU etches against Senate

Governing Mayor Giffey promised the Senate would do whatever it takes to prepare for a smooth vote. Mistakes happened that shouldn’t happen again. CDU General Secretary Mario Czaja said that mistakes like those in the Berlin election are otherwise only known from countries that are accompanied by international election observers. “It’s sad to see that the Berlin Senate wasn’t even able to organize a proper election.” Czaja also called for personal consequences. Meanwhile, the President of the House of Representatives, Dennis Buchner, assured that Parliament would continue to function.

According to election officer Bröchler, more voting booths should be available at the polling stations when the polls are repeated. Instead of 34,000 election workers, at least 38,000 are to be deployed, possibly even more. Your compensation, the “refreshment money”, was increased from 60 to up to 240 euros.

Source: Stern

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