Dramatic turning point one year after the breakdown in the elections to the Berlin House of Representatives: Based on a preliminary assessment, the state's constitutional court considers a complete repetition of the election to be necessary.
During the preparation and implementation, there were a large number of serious electoral errors, said Court President Ludgera Selting at a hearing on election objections. These were mandate-relevant - according to the court's assessment, they had an impact on the composition of Parliament and the distribution of mandates.
On September 26, 2021, the Bundestag and the twelve district parliaments were re-elected in Berlin during the corona pandemic. There was also a referendum on the expropriation of large housing groups. The Berlin marathon also ran alongside.
Election overshadowed by glitches
The consequences of this concentration and poor preparation were massive problems, such as wrong or missing ballot papers, too few ballot boxes, the temporary closure of polling stations, long queues in front of it with waiting times that sometimes lasted for hours. Some voters were still voting after 6 p.m. or on hastily copied ballot papers because there were no supplies.
The assessment of the constitutional judges on the consequences is more extensive than some had expected and alarmed politicians in red-green-red governed Berlin. A complete re-election - something like this has only happened at the state level in Hamburg in 1993 - could result in completely new majorities. Court President Selting emphasized that the provisional rating was not a decision and could still change in the course of the ongoing election review process. And a date for the announcement of the verdict has not yet been set. Nevertheless, the election campaign should now begin.
For the Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) and her three-party coalition, this comes at the wrong time. After the accommodation and integration of tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, the Senate must and wants to take care of security of supply and relieve citizens and companies of high prices in view of the energy crisis. And the corona pandemic is not over yet.
SPD in recent polls only in third place
When the court will rule on the validity of the elections, it wants to announce after further, but then not public consultations. After the oral hearing, there are three months to do so, i.e. until the end of the year. A possible re-election would then have to take place within 90 days. So the latest date would be in March. The question is whether the Federal Constitutional Court will still come into play in the proceedings at state level. During the oral hearing, a representative of Berlin's Senate Interior Administration suggested that the case be presented in Karlsruhe.
"Partly chaotic conditions" on election day
Selting said that on election day, many voters were unable to vote at all or cast their vote under reasonable conditions for a variety of reasons. The President of the Constitutional Court spoke of "sometimes chaotic conditions" in many of the 2,256 polling stations. According to Selting, principles such as freedom of choice and equality of choice have been violated.
Berlin's CDU General Secretary Stefan Evers said: "As of today, Franziska Giffey is a governing mayor on call." The opposition demanded the resignation of building senator Andreas Geisel (SPD), who was senator for the interior until 2021 and was therefore responsible for elections. He had denied responsibility for the debacle.
"It's not that I don't feel responsible. But the question is what decision do you make to make things better, and I've decided to work," said Geisel at a readers' forum for the "Berliner Morgenpost". According to the electoral law and the constitution, he does not have technical supervision, but legal supervision. "I was a candidate myself and shouldn't have intervened," emphasized Geisel and asked: "What would it do better if I resigned?"
Interior Secretary: No "widespread election failure"
Interior Secretary Torsten Akmann (SPD) assured: "It must not be repeated. And I can say for the Senate that it will not be repeated." However, the Senate and the incumbent state returning officer Ulrike Rockmann consider the path recorded by the court to be exaggerated. There is no "widespread electoral failure".
Parallel to the Berlin procedure, there is also the possibility of a repeat election with regard to the Bundestag. The Bundestag itself will decide on this - possibly in October - on the basis of a recommendation from its election examination committee. It is expected that complaints will then be lodged with the Federal Constitutional Court, which will have the last word.