On Tuesday, the leading candidate Franziska Giffey was Mayor Franziska Giffey again. As every Tuesday for over a year, she chaired the morning session of the Berlin Senate. The agenda included monitoring the election, but also topics that are already almost commonplace, such as dealing with the “last generation” of climate protectors. The comforting, calming feeling that comes over you when you slip back into old routines sets in briefly. But there was something there.
Less than 24 hours earlier, it could be that the “Giffey model”, as politician Giffey is also described, had reached the end of its life cycle. There was unrest in the state executive of the Berlin Social Democrats, some of which sounded like direct plans for a coup. The election result was a “game changer”, said deputy state party leader Kian Niroomand. “It can’t go on like this.” Kevin Hönicke, member of the board of directors, also demanded that “it doesn’t go on like this”.
A historic defeat in Berlin
The election of the Chamber of Deputies was repeated on Sunday; the CDU was by far the strongest party, the SPD and the Greens each got 18.4 percent of the vote. While the Greens stayed in town just short of their all-time best result, it was a historic defeat for the Social Democrats. On Monday, some comrades in the background directly demanded that Giffey leave. Ahead of Monday night’s state council meeting, the odds for state co-chairman were said to be only fifty percent. A former finance senator has already been negotiated as an interim candidate, Kevin Kühnert, secretary general of the SPD, as a wild card.
The pressure Giffey was under was already visible to her. Sometimes she looked very professional in her approach, with that bright smile. On Monday it was little. The Giffey model had a defect. She couldn’t say more about it now, “I don’t want to say any more,” she responded around noon at the press conference at the Willy Brandt House, headquarters of the federal party. Again, questions were asked about her future.
It was the second day of a war of nerves that you really can’t wish on anyone. Already after the first predictions on Sunday night, it was clear that it would be tight for the SPD. And it wasn’t about winning the election. “It wasn’t enough for first place and we have to see if it’s enough for second place,” was Giffey’s motto for the evening. But with each additional vote counted, her prospects of remaining mayor worsened. In the end, only 105 votes separate them from the Greens.
Since then, she has fought not only for the power of her national association, but also for her own importance as a politician. Without the office of mayor, there wouldn’t be much left after Giffey lost direct office to an almost unknown Christian Democrat in his constituency. As the main candidate, she can only enter the Chamber of Deputies through the state list.
It can only keep Red City Hall allied with the Greens and the Left.
During Monday, there was much encouragement from the federal party for Giffey. Chancellor Olaf Scholz trailed behind the comrade in a similarly demonstrative fashion, as did party chairmen Saskia Esken and Lars Klingbeil. But it was still unclear how the state executive of the SPD would behave. The meeting after the election defeat was also seen as an opportunity for the strong leftist party to take a stand against the stronger party around Giffey and co-president Raed Saleh.
But Giffey apparently preempted them by offering to resign early in the meeting. “My party supported me today in the federal executive and the state executive did the same”, she said, visibly calmer after the meeting. “If the party disagrees, I made it clear today that I will not stand by my position.” Along with her co-chair, she was hired to lead the exploratory talks.
It’s a pretty tricky maneuver. Because the social democrats can only keep the red city hall if they continue their alliance with the greens and the left. “Of course, we will also be talking to our coalition partners about how to proceed,” Giffey said. At the same time, she has repeatedly stated that a left-wing coalition must change its policy after the election results. The previous alliance is no longer perceived “as a joint project”. Voter protests must be taken seriously. “An agenda for change is needed in the areas of housing construction, transportation, administrative reform, but most of all homeland security.”
It is not clear how she intends to promote these changes with her coalition partners. The SPD would go into the relaunch of this severely weakened alliance. So, after the state council meeting, Giffey also outlined the possibility of a grand coalition with the CDU, and polls are expected to begin later this week. In that case, Mayor Giffey would be MP Franziska Giffey.