#3: Less than 3 weeks to go
Corona, rent cap 2.0, Unter den Linden, election explainer
What Unter den Linden is supposed to look like next year, according to a government simulation. Oddly devoid of cars and tourists blocking everything.
We hope you got through Monday in one piece.
Most of Germany is fixated on one thing: the election. At 6pm on Sunday, September 26 - after 16 years of the CDU and Angela Merkel running the show - we’ll be a lot wiser about the shape of German leadership to come. The SPD’s Olaf Scholz (finance minister and vice chancellor) is enjoying a five-point lead over CDU man Armin Laschet, who is being blamed for a plummet in support for his party. Three weeks is a long time in politics. We wouldn’t put it past the Christian Democrats, who have dominated German politics for generations, to turn the tanker around by election day.
For Berliners at least, the election is about much more than just Merkel’s successor. More on that in our explainer below.
First, this news…
The Berlin corona stats for September 7
Fully vaccinated: 65.6% (65.3% Friday)
New cases: 858 (533 Friday)
Total deaths: 3,597
🟡 7-day Covid-19 incidence: 87.9 (83.8 Friday)
🟢 7-day hospitalisation incidence (a new stat: the number of corona patients newly hospitalized per 100,000 people over the past 7 days): 1.7
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 7.5% (5.4% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona information page
90% of intensive care patients not vaccinated
With the vaccination rate (61.4% nationwide) only creeping up, German leaders are warning of a difficult autumn."The vaccination rate is still too low to prevent the health care system from being overburdened," said health minister Jens Spahn (CDU). Speaking to Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, he said infection rates among the unvaccinated are more than 10 times higher than among the vaccinated, and that 90% of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units are unvaccinated.
Medical professionals are also worried. "We’re already seeing how strongly the Delta variant is spreading indoors," Christian Karagiannidis, president of the German Society for Internal Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the Augsburger Allgemeine. "If we don't get the vaccination rate up significantly by October, we'll get a really sharp increase in corona cases in intensive care units in the fall."
Rent cap 2.0?
In local news: Berlin’s SPD-Grüne-Linke government - just in time for the election - says it’s going to have another go at controlling rental prices. The last attempt was shot down by Germany’s Constitutional Court in April, meaning a lot of tenants had to pay money back to their landlords after their rents had been lowered in November 2020. To avoid another fiasco, Berlin wants to set new, Germany-wide legislation in motion through the second house of parliament, the Bundesrat, in which the 16 German states are represented. In case you forgot: Berlin, along with Hamburg and Bremen, is technically both a state and a city. We’ll keep you updated on the new rent cap efforts.
Cycle lanes for Unter den Linden
Since we can remember, cycling down Berlin’s grand old boulevard meant dodging construction sites and sharing a lane with double-decker buses. Now that the U5 line and the fake palace are done, it’s time to fix up the street. On the stretch between the Humboldt Forum and the Brandenburg Gate, workers will start repainting markings in October. By next summer, cars, buses and bikes will each get one lane each. But Berlin transport minister Regine Günther (Grüne) has bigger amibitions: she wants a total redesign of Unter den Linden by 2028 (with no cars at all) - and you, the Bürger - can contribute via this multiple choice survey (you have to register with Berlin’s citizen’s participation platform Mein Berlin first). It’s in German, but at least it’s a tiny way to have input in the way the city is run, even if you can’t vote in the election.
With less than three weeks to go, we can expect plenty of demo action on the capital’s streets. On Saturday, thousands took part in the Unteilbar (“indivisible”) march through Mitte - including trade unionists, anti-racism groups and climate activists. And yesterday, Fridays For Future pitched their tents at a “climate justice camp” near the Kanzleramt. A massive climate demo is planned for September 24, two days before the election.
For parents: holidays begin Christmas Eve
Christmas season starts in September in Germany (grab some Lebkuchen before it sells out in October) so we’re already talking about the school holidays. This year, X-mas vacation in Berlin starts a day later than expected, i.e. on Christmas Eve itself. The scramble for travel tickets will be insane. Last year Deutsche Bahn tickets for the holiday season went on sale October 13. We’ll keep you posted when we know more.
Finally, the shortest election explainer ever
Voters in Berlin get to put make 6 choices on September 26.
Bundestag election (2 votes): The strongest party gets to pick the German chancellor and lead a coalition government. 53 parties are on this ballot. Voters have 2 votes: one “direct” vote in a first-past-the-post contest in their constituency; and a second vote for a national party list. A formula that’s too complicated to explain here (or anywhere else) ensures fairly proportional representation in the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament. In a nutshell, small parties get to enter parliament even if they don’t win constituencies.
Berlin state election (2 votes): As mentioned above, on paper Berlin is a state and a city. So it has a parliament. The 2-vote system mirrors the national one. The centre-left SPD is expected to win the most votes, meaning it can lead a coalition and occupy the “governing mayor” post.
District council elections (1 vote): Berlin residents from EU countries get to participate in elections for the 12 Bezirksverordnetenversammlungen (district councils). Fun fact: you only have to be 16. Eligible voters should have received a notification by September 5, with info about their polling station. If you’d prefer a postal ballot, you can apply for it online here. But don’t worry, they still accept faxes.
Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co referendum (1 vote): Activists (info in English) collected enough signatures to get a referendum on whether to force housing companies with at least 3,000 flats in the city to sell their Berlin properties to the state. At least 617,000 people must vote “yes” for the referendum to pass. Only German passport holders can take part…. but always a fun topic of discussion with Berliners. It’s up to politicians whether they pass corresponding legislation.
Finally, why not give the Berlin Wahl-o-mat a go? Even if you’re ineligble to vote, it’s a fun way to find out more about local politics.
That’s it for now. Phew. Watch this space for more info on the issues, the parties and the candidates. See you Friday.
Maurice & Andrew