© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows an election poster from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) with top candidate Franziska Giffey for the upcoming repeat Berlin state elections in Berlin, Germany January 6, 2023. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany’s conservative CDU party was on the way to a clear victory in a repeat election in the city state of Berlin, in a blow to Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats who have governed the city state for 22 years.
An exit poll by the broadcaster ZDF on Sunday put the Christian Democrats (CDU) on 27.8% of the vote, 9.8 percentage points more than in the 2021 election, which a court was ruled invalid due to irregularities.
The Social Democrats, who have been ruling the German capital in a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and hard-left Die Linke, scored 18%. The Greens and Die Linke were on 18% and 13% of the vote respectively.
“Berlin chose change”, CDU top candidate Kai Wegner said of the results, adding that there was a clear mandate for his party to form a state government.
The vote could turf left-wing mayor Franziska Giffey out of office well before the end of her term and complicate life for the Federal Chancellor, her party ally, by depriving his coalition of more votes in the upper house of parliament.
Giffey acknowledged the election defeat but said the CDU would still need a stable majority to govern the German capital.
“We must see it very clearly that this result shows first that Berliners are not satisfied with what’s there. They wish things will be different,” Giffey said.
The repeat vote, ordered after the September 2021 election was marred by irregularities including long queues and voters receiving incorrect ballot cards, is one more item on the charge sheet for those who see the capital as a sclerotic mess that belies Germany’s reputation for efficiency.
The CDU will be hoping this message and the victory in Berlin put wind in their sails ahead of October’s vote in Hesse, home to Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, where a conservative premier risks losing office to another Scholz ally.