The city of Berlin on Sunday was holding a court-ordered rerun of a chaotic 2021 state election that was marred by severe glitches at many polling stations that led to hours-long lines as some polling places ran out of ballot papers or received ones for the wrong district.
Berliners have long been frustrated by the German capital’s notoriously dysfunctional ways, which have been defying clichés of German efficiency for years and have made the city the laughing stock of the rest of the country.
The constitutional court of Berlin, one of three German cities that is also a state in its own right, declared the original vote invalid in November. It said in a statement that a partial rerun wouldn’t be enough “in view of the large number and severity of the election errors.”
The decision followed complaints by several political parties and government entities over the Sept. 26, 2021, vote for the state legislature.
Berlin held four votes on the same day that year: the state election, an election for the city’s 12 district assemblies, the German national election, and a local referendum. The Berlin Marathon, also held the same day, added to logistical difficulties.
Long lines formed outside many polling stations as voters struggled with extra ballot papers. Some polling stations ran out of ballot papers during the day and others received ones for the wrong district, leading to a large number of invalidated ballots.
Another issue was that the election was supposed to end at 6 p.m., but voters waiting in line at that time were allowed to cast their ballots – at a time when exit polls were already public.
Franziska Giffey, who belongs to Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, was elected Berlin’s new mayor in 2021, and has been leading the city in a three-party left-wing governing coalition. The 44-year-old is now running for mayor again.
The Green Party’s top candidate is Environment and Mobility Senator Bettina Jarasch. Klaus Lederer, the senator for culture, is running for the Left Party – both are currently coalition partners of Giffey.
Kai Wegner is the top candidate of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union, which is currently leading the polls.
In recent polls, the Christian Democrats were leading, ahead of the Social Democrats and the Greens, with a number of other parties also expected to take a significant proportion of the vote.
The polling estimates leave open who will become Berlin’s next mayor as several different coalition options are possible.
Among the most pressing issues is the city’s housing market. Rising rents and a housing shortage have made affordable living in the city center almost impossible for many middle-class families.
Berliners would also like to see an end to some of their city’s frustrations.
Among the most teeth-grinding issues are the much-delayed opening of the city’s airport and the near impossibility of getting an appointment with the city’s citizen centers to apply for a wedding license, register after a move or apply for a new passport.
The city’s school system is known for its notoriously dilapidated buildings and students who regularly rank at the bottom of the national scores when it comes to reading, math and other subjects.
Yet, despite the many complaints, the city’s 3.6 million residents also love their city which is praised for its tolerance, buzzing culture and night-life scene, and diversity.
Around 2.4 million people are eligible to vote in the rerun, according to the German news agency dpa.
“Hopefully the whole process will work out today,” retiree Margot Hoffmann, 68, told The Associated Press on Sunday morning as she cast her ballot in the city’s Charlottenburg district.
René Schoenemann, a 26-year-old polling volunteer, seemed optimistic that the election would take place in a more organized manner this time.
“It’s not a big crowd … and it’s also easier to manage,” Schoenemann said. “So even if you can say that the election rerun is silly, there’s been better preparation this time, and we have a more pleasant feeling than during the last election.”