For a long time it had looked as if Kai Wegner, who was also little known in Berlin, would go away empty-handed with 28 percent despite his CDU’s first place. But a lot has changed in the meantime.
Now, Kai Wegner is by no means the “lonely Kai” he was mocked as by the SPD during the Berlin election campaign. The Berlin CDU top candidate in the re-election of the House of Representatives is on the verge of becoming Governing Mayor of the capital. For a long time it had looked as if Wegner (50), who was also little known in Berlin, would go away empty-handed with 28 percent despite his CDU’s first place. He lacked the natural coalition partner. The FDP did not make it into parliament, the AfD is out of the question, and the state associations of the SPD and the Greens are more left-leaning. But now, of all people, the SPD state executive decided to start coalition negotiations with the CDU.
In general, Wegner often had to listen to ridicule. The trained insurance man comes from Spandau, a district that is so far west of Berlin that most hip Mitte and Kreuzberg residents probably only know him from stories. Even in the CDU there were some who could hardly imagine him as governing mayor.
In the Berlin CDU, which is considered a West Berlin men’s association, Wegner has had a real party career and has already occupied almost all positions: 1990 state chairman of the student union, 1995 district councillor, 1999 Berlin MP, 2000 vice state chairman, 2005 to 2021 Member of the Bundestag, 2011 General Secretary of the CDU Berlin.
Preference for Hertha BSC and for drinking coffee
In 2019, Wegner pushed the CDU state chairwoman Monika Grütters out of office and had herself elected as her successor. It was obvious that he would then also become the top candidate for the 2021 election to the House of Representatives and ultimately the group leader.
Wegner lives in Spandau to this day. He is divorced, in a new relationship and has three children. He is considered to be well networked in the city and, for example, is on first-name terms with some leading Green politicians such as the parliamentary group leader Werner Graf. He also shares his love for the currently rather hapless Bundesliga club Hertha BSC and for drinking coffee.
The fact that Wegner surpassed the very poor CDU results of the previous elections and ended up in first place in the repeat election has a lot to do with the mistakes of the Senate made up of SPD, Greens and Left, according to election analyses. Traditional SPD voters in particular were alienated by the coalition, which argued about cycle paths, road closures, New Year’s Eve riots, class cancellations and the fight against clans. “Protest voters” have benefited the CDU, it said.
Precise answers required
The CDU last appointed a head of government in Berlin with Eberhard Diepgen, who, with one interruption, served for more than 15 years until 2001. Then Klaus Wowereit made the SPD strong again and made the then PDS and later Left Party capable of forming a coalition as a partner. The CDU had little to report. She ruled again for five years as a small partner of the SPD from 2011 to 2016, but largely without luck.
In the last election campaign, the Berlin CDU polarized people when they asked for the first names of suspects with German nationality after the New Year’s Eve riots. Wegner defended this at the beginning of January: “We have to know the names so that we can give precise answers and reach the young people.” Now Wegner has to provide tailor-made answers for the whole city if he wants to be successful in the long term with a CDU-SPD coalition and not just benefit from protest voters who are tired of the SPD.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.