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  • Dennis

Election Day

The elections are over, the votes are counted and the posters are starting to disappear from the public again.

But before everyone moves on I would like to use this occasion to present the political system of the city and talk about the results.

First things first: What did we vote for?

Berlin is one of Germany's 16 federal states and has its own parliament called 'Abgeordnetenhaus' and its own government called 'Senat'. The head of the Senat is the 'Regierender Bürgermeister', the mayor of Berlin.

Abgeordnetenhaus Berlin, the local parliament

In Germany there are generally no direct elections for positions of the government like the mayor. We elect members of the parliament organized in parties who normally form a coalition which elects the Senat and the mayor.

Every registered adult German citzen had three votes:

The 'Erststimme' (first vote) is for a direct candidate of one of the 78 constituencies Berlin has.

Direct candidates are elected by a simple 'Winner takes it all' principle. The candidate that gets most votes wins the constituency and gets into the parliament. You don't need a majority, you just need to be ahead of everyone else.

polling station in a school just around the corner from my apartment

In my constituency 10 people were competing for that spot as you can see here. There were candidates from all the six bigger parties that made it into the parliament, three from smaller parties and one independent candidate. There was no candidate from the NPD.

Marc Urbatsch from the Green party won my constituency.

But the first vote only decides about 78 of the 160 seats in the parliament.

Of way more importance is therefore the 'Zweitstimme' (second vote):

The result of those votes city-wide determines the number of seats a party gets in the Abgeordnetenhaus. Here a total of 18 parties were running for election, out of those six eventually made it into the parliament. A party only enters the parliament when they manage to get a minimum of 5% of the second vote.

Every party running has a list of further candidates which are filling up the positions until their margin is reached. One example: Berlin's CDU, the conservative party, got a total of 31 seats in the parliament. Out of those 21 were elected directly, the rest entered the parliament via the list.

It can happen that a party gets more direct seats than they would get via the second vote. In that case all direct candidates still enter the parliament, but other parties might get additional members to keep the relation in balance to the result of the second vote. This is the main reason why the number of members in the parliament can vary from election to election. It didn't happen this time though.

The third and last vote is the one for Bezirksverordnetenversammlung (short: BVV), the parliament of the districts of Berlin. The city consists of 12 districts which all have their own parliament and mayor. The reason for this is the fact, that Berlin actually consists of originally 8 independent towns and dozens of rural communities that were fused together to Greater Berlin in 1920.

The districts have a lot of independence and also their own budgets so they actually have a lot to say in local matters.

This is why you can vote for the district parliament even if you are not a German citizen. But you have to be registered in the district for at least 3 month. That's why my Polish wife could vote as well.

Here are the results of the general vote:

Election result Berlin 2016

The SPD, which ruled the city over the last 15 years, will be able to continue to rule in a fourth term despite having the worst result of their history in Berlin. This is only possible because the conservatives of the CDU, their former coalition partner, fell down even harder from the last election.

The fragmentation of the political landscape continues in Berlin, where six parties made it into the parliament which leaves almost only one possible coalition:

The Social Democrats are gonna go with the Left and the Greens in a triple-coalition.

This emphasizes that Berlin is a rather left-wing town where the CDU is struggling a lot more than in any other part of Germany.

The rise of the AFD continues in Berlin as well, even though they are behind their result in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern two weeks ago. Once more they managed to attract a lot of people to the vote than during the last election, their strongholds being at the outer districts of East Berlin.

It also once more meant that the NPD lost a lot of votes and is down to 0,6%

The Berlin Storyteller at the vote

All in all though there were no real surprises in the elections:

The CDU is strongest in the western part of the town, the Linke gains most votes in the east, the center is the stronghold of the Greens, the AFD wins the outskirts with desillusioned former non-voters and only the SPD manages to overcome the east-western scheme left behind by the Cold War.

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