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#151: Berlin election, refugees, BSR strike, energy aid
Another classic Eckkneipe bites the dust
Hey 20 Percent,
The Berlin re-election is Sunday. That is, Berliners will return to polling stations re-do the botched election of September 2019.
It’s not looking good for incumbent mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) and her coalition partners Die Grüne and Die Linke. The centre-right CDU, which hasn’t run the city since 2001, when support for mayor Eberhard Diepgen (CDU) collapsed due to a very big finance scandal at Berlin’s state bank. Now the CDU, led by mayoral candidate Kai Wegner, is poised to wallop the competition, according to the latest surveys. (For you statistics junkies, here’s a sweet dashboard over at Tagesspiegel)
Wegner could well become our next mayor but his party will probably only win 25% of the vote and will have to court the SPD or Grüne and maybe a third small party (the FDP, naturally) as coalition partners.
It’s going to be complicated. For one, Die Grüne (Greens) were horrified by the CDU’s request for the police to release the first names of the young men arrested for violence against first responders on New Year’s Eve. Wegner says he wanted to know the “background” of the youths, in order to improve crime prevention in future. For the Greens, it was just racism.
Wegner is also on a collision course with the Greens and, to some degree the SPD, on transport. The Greens, headed by current transport boss Bettina Jarasch, want to banish most cars from central Berlin and cancel the extension of the A100 autobahn into Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg. The CDU, cognisant of many Berliners’ ongoing love affair with the automobile, won’t stand for that.
What everyone does agree on is that Berlin desparately needs more affordable housing and to finally get its act together on digitalisation and e-government. Both issues top Berliners’ wish lists, but nothing ever seems to happen thanks to somewhat mysterious, deep-lying structures of complacency and incompetence. Good luck with that, Kai.
Of course, if the current city government (confusingly known as the Senat) hadn’t completely screwed up the last election, we wouldn’t be here. Franziska Giffey, the Grüne and Die Linke really blew a huge opportunity to transform the city.
Statistically, depending on the results on Sunday night, the SPD-Grüne-Linke coalition might still be able to conspire to form a Senat — replicating the current constellation. But is that what Berliners really want? We’ll keep you updated! Follow our Twitter for real-time election news!
Politics and strange bedfellows
Although Berlin’s ruling coalition may change after Sunday’s vote, district mayors — the heads of the city-state’s 12 official boroughs — may not, even if their party no longer holds the majority, Tagesspiegel reported recently. It’s because they only have a pseudo-political position — once they’re appointed, they become Beamte (bureaucrats) for a five-year term, even if the election that led to their appointment is nullified. Some mayors told Tagesspiegel they’re aware of the anti-democratic situation and are hoping for a Berlin-wide solution.
In 2022, a record 95,000 refugees and asylum seekers were registered in Berlin, announced the reponsible agency, LAF. About 71,000 of them were Ukrainian refugees, the rest are from other countries. LAF estimates that 100,000 Ukrainians are living here — the numbers don’t match up because Ukrainians don’t technically have to go through the asylum application process. Germany has automatically granted them the right to live and work in the country.
Overflowing bins in your Hinterhof? Workers at the city-owned sanitation firm BSR have been striking for more pay since Thursday, reports RBB. Garbage collection, street cleaning and 14 recycling centres citywide are affected. This means the grey “other” bins, brown “bio” bins and some recycling bins could remain uncollected until Monday. The industrial action is one of several public-sector “warning strikes” organised by union Verdi, which is demanding a wage increase of 10.5% or at least €500 more per month.
Energy money for small businesses
Heads up business owners: The Senat announced a new €252 million Energy Hardship Assistance programme for small enterprises. Applicants that can prove that their energy costs have risen by at least 90% over 2021 could be eligble for a one-off 90% subsidy. The online application goes online here on March 15.
Another dead Eckkneipe
I seldom visit an Eckkneipe, or old-school Berlin corner pubs, but whenever I do I’m never disappointed. The vibes are usually unpretentious and homey, the food filling and the beers large. Sadly, one of the oldest ones, Mommsen-Eck in Charlottenburg, says it will be closing down on April 23. Manager Dagmar Dagustan said the building’s owners are throwing out the Kneipe, which has been around since 1905, in favour of something “more modern”. 👎👎👎
Other parts of the country have been calling Berlin a “failed state” for being the only German state to re-do an election. Not true! In 1991, the city-state election in Hamburg was declared null and void after the CDU took legal action over a technicality (they hadn’t done well), leading to a new vote in 1993. In 2009, Schleswig-Holstein’s election results were thrown out thanks to unfair distribution of parliamentary seats, bringing on a change in legislation and new elections. Berlin, you’re not the only loser on the block!
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