In February, the Berlin election will be repeated. The Greens sense an opportunity. And Franziska Giffey fears for her job.
Franziska Giffey has to defend herself after just three minutes. It’s Saturday, 7.30 p.m., a long day lies behind the Governing Mayor. Giffey spoke at Verdi and at the party conference of the Berlin SPD.
She shook hands, hugged comrades, defended the leading motion. Now she is in RBB’s “Abendschau” studio. The moderator wants to know what the dispute in the coalition is like.
Franziska Giffey tilts her head to one side and suggests a smile. “You know, these are kind of sideshows that we’re talking about here,” she says. Disputes in the red-green-red coalition in Berlin, that doesn’t fit your narrative at all.
The former district mayor of Neukölln now wants to show strength. The Senate has put together its own relief package for this, worth three billion euros. But nobody is talking about that in Berlin right now. It’s all about: the choice. Yet again.
Presumably on February 12, 2023, the Berliners will determine a new House of Representatives. The state constitutional court declared the election of September 26, 2021 invalid due to numerous glitches.
In the first round, the Berlin election was a tragedy with neck-and-neck races between the SPD and the Greens. Now it repeats itself as a farce. All parties must compete with the same frontrunners as in 2021, the same faces taped to lampposts. Only the balance of power has shifted.
According to current polls, the Greens, SPD and CDU are almost on par. The possibility of a change of government alone is a minor sensation in the capital: if there is anything else like social democratic heritage, then it is Berlin. The Social Democrats have been the governing mayor here for 21 years. That could change in February.
Not only for Franziska Giffey, but also the SPD in the federal government has little desire for another election in the coming year, because each one has explosive power: A success in Bremen is mandatory, Hesse would be optional, in Bavaria one fights against oneness. And Berlin?
“The blockade of citizen income in the Bundesrat has shown that we need state governments that deal responsibly with people’s social problems. Otherwise it will be more difficult to organize majorities for projects of the progressive coalition in the future,” says Kevin Kühnert, Secretary General of the SPD.
The greatest danger for Franziska Giffey is not CDU man Kai Wegner, but her coalition sister of all people: the Green Bettina Jarasch. In the election last fall, when the first projections incorrectly predicted a triumph for the Greens, the native of Augsburg briefly felt like the new mayor.
Then she became only a transport senator as a junior partner in the coalition. The Greens still haven’t gotten over the pain of election night, some doubt.
Beer-Bratwurst-Giffey-Sozis vs. Cargorad-Bio-Jarasch-Greens – there has been a rumble since the coalition’s first days, especially between the two most important women in the city. The Greens say it took Giffey a while to understand that the senators weren’t her department heads.
If you ask Bettina Jarasch whether the clarification of Giffey’s management style was successful, she laughs, less friendly than mocking. “It may work in Neukölln,” she says, “but there is a departmental principle in the Senate.”
On the other hand, if you ask Giffey about her respect for the departmental principle, she explains: “Every senator can fully assume his departmental responsibility. But if I see that someone needs support or that things are not going well, then as governing mayor I have to say: I’ll do my part to make it work.” Those who don’t deliver are told that clearly.
Jarasch recently experienced for himself what Giffey means by this. In the leading role: a street, not just any street, but Friedrichstrasse. It used to be a magnificent boulevard, today it is every city planner’s nightmare turned into concrete.
Bettina Jarasch wanted to turn the traffic axis into a car-free promenade. It was their prestige project, a green scent brand in the capital.
But then a retailer sued. And won. The judges ruled that the pedestrian zone must be dismantled. That should be implemented quickly, Giffey announced, even before the revision had even been checked in Jarasch’s department.
The senator didn’t let that sit on her. Ms. Giffey probably didn’t understand the verdict, said Jarasch on television – and thus finally opened the fight on the open stage.
Nobody believes that Giffey and Jarasch will find each other again before the election. Jarasch is now starting the election campaign as a tiger again, Giffey is said to have said recently at an internal SPD meeting. And end up as a bedside rug.
Giffey is still holding back publicly with such attacks. “The best advertising is when we deliver as a Senate,” she says. She expects the same from all members of the Senate.
But if you ask around, you get the impression that there are currently two Giffeys walking through Berlin, one of which hands out a lot to the coalition partner.
At the state party conference a week ago, Giffey devoted a lot of time to the Greens. “It has to be clear: who actually stands for blossom dreams and who for pragmatic politics?” She called out to the Greens. The hall raged.
You meet the other Giffey on a Sunday in Alt-Rudow. The district belongs to her constituency in Neukölln, last time she got over 40 percent of the votes here.
In the backyard of the old village school there is an arts and crafts market today, a real feel-good date. No green competition, just Giffey, her son, and the crafts. The Governing Mayoress trudges across the meadow in a blue casual jacket.
“Hello! Well, how are you?” she shouts brightly to the dealers. As if there is nothing better than walking through a dark backyard in freezing temperatures.
Here people rave about the times when she ruled in Neukölln. A woman gives her a glass guardian angel. “So that the election works,” she says.
Giffey, the neighborhood nanny. And Giffey, the power-conscious ruler with the Greens breathing down her neck. The SPD enters the winter with this ambivalence. “During the election campaign I speak for the SPD, as governing mayor I represent the entire Senate and all of Berlin,” says Giffey. “I can separate that.”
The Greens are already more aggressive. “We will be very present and use the second chance to turn the majority around,” said Jarasch. In order to win the election, the Greens would have to win many SPD voters. Berlin is growing towards her party, says Bettina Jarasch.
The SPD naturally sees things differently. After 33 years in government, it’s hard to imagine ending up in the opposition. “We don’t want to be poll kings, we want to win this election,” says Franziska Giffey.
She has to say that. She has to do it. Because the end of the social democratic era in Berlin is almost certainly the end of her political career.
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