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SPD wins Berlin vote as Pirates celebrate

Published: 18 Sep 2011 18:29 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 Sep 2011 19:49 GMT+02:00

Incumbent Mayor Klaus Wowereit led the SPD to a third consecutive victory in the German capital, even as his party suffered mild losses. According to early exit polls, the Social Democrats won almost 29 percent of the vote, down two percentage points from five years ago.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was able to improve its result by two points to over 23 percent, while the environmentalist Greens jumped four points to almost 18 percent – the party’s best showing in Berlin ever.

Wowereit’s current coalition partners, the socialist party The Left (Die Linke), dropped nearly two percentage points to around 11 percent, meaning they will no longer stay in government.

"We worked well together, but unfortunately that is no longer possible," said a buoyant Wowereit to SPD supporters after the results were announced.

The biggest surprise of the vote was the smashing success of the Pirate Party – a motley outfit advocating civil liberties, as well as privacy and technology issues. The Pirates sailed easily into the state legislature with nine percent of the vote.

"We'll see what happens in parliament when the citizens see a different type of politics," said Andreas Baum, the 33-year-old head of Berlin chapter of the Pirate Party.

The upstart Pirates put the result of the Free Democrats (FDP) to shame, as the pro-business party won a paltry two percent and will no longer be represented in the state legislature.

Although the Greens dramatically improved their result from the last election and are set to join the city government, at the outset of the campaign it appeared as if they might challenge Wowereit for the keys to the mayor's office.

But their high-profile candidate, former federal Consumer Affairs Minister Renate Künast proved to be a poor campaigner and in recent days she said the Greens would be happy to be junior partner to Wowereit's SPD.

"After 10 years of standstill we want to govern," Künast told public broadcaster ARD. "But we won't simply be a cheap replacement for The Left. There will have to be priority for Green policies."

In contrast, the 57-year-old hugely popular and openly gay Wowereit ran a smooth, gaffe-free campaign.

His backers say Wowereit has helped turn Berlin's weaknesses into strengths, famously calling the cash-strapped capital "poor but sexy" for attracting hordes of tourists and creative types to one of Europe's most affordable cities.

But with a 13-percent jobless rate – nearly double the national average – and a staggering €62-billion ($86-billion) mountain of debt more than two decades after the Berlin Wall fell, critics say the city needs a major economic overhaul.

While the poll will have no direct bearing on Merkel's parliamentary majority at the federal level, it caps a horror year for the leader of Europe's top economy.

Her conservatives have suffered a string of state election defeats amid accusations the chancellor has shown a lack of leadership during the eurozone debt crisis and failed to quell unruly elements in her prickly centre-right government.

The dire Berlin result of the FDP, Merkel's junior coalition partners, could raise fears that the party could become more erratic and unpredictable than it already has been in recent months.

Meanwhile the Social Democrats, the biggest opposition party at the national level, hope the Berlin vote can give it another boost on the road to the 2013 general election.

The Local/AFP/DPA/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

19:10 September 18, 2011 by iseedaftpeople
I am very happy for the Pirates.

They may not really know yet what they are doing, that is, besides their true core competence regarding matters of civil liberties, Internet censorship, and the surveillance state, but in the end - lately, it looks much like all the other established parties have no clue whatsoever.
19:20 September 18, 2011 by derExDeutsche
I am digging that Piraten Partei ! Hooray ! Open Source Governance? I love it ! Although, Intellectual Property will take a hit. Will there be investment in anything new if it can just be legally stolen 'for the people'?
22:35 September 18, 2011 by CharlieBravo
Any political party that advocates open source and free downloading for all, is living in the land of make believe. Behind every song, film, TV show, book, game are thousands of jobs, livelihoods and families. What type of political party would advocate the destruction of any industry? Especially an industry that Berlin has worked hard to attract in the absence of traditional business.
00:29 September 19, 2011 by bartschaff
The argument of free content destroying the industry is a good fallacy, but only that: a lie. When you buy a CD or a book, usually most of the money stays with the intermediaries, who are nowadays fortunately unnecessary.

The best answer for the problem of income source for content producers (artists, mostly) is already very well known: advertising (as open TV and the core of google's services, for example) and voluntary payment. When I know the money is going to the artist (like when buying a music from his website), paying a reasonable price is fine, and many people (me included) donate to competent street performers.
09:46 September 19, 2011 by CharlieBravo
@bartschaff - You just did a great job of contradicting yourself. I understand you wish to see more money going to the creators of creative content (even though the policies of the Pirate Party destroy that notion). But around creative people, is an entire industry equalling thousands of jobs. You say those "intermediaries" are not necessary but that is incorrect, if you write a book then you want an agent and publisher to help you package, launch and promote it. You want shops, both physical and digital to sell it and you want advertising in any form to help reach an audience. That all requires manpower. Yes you can do it alone today, but as the Pirate Party advocates open source, you kill the industry and the creator gets nothing anyway. Hoping that people voluntarily pay for films, music, books etc is laughable.
14:30 September 19, 2011 by Querulant
We can assume that all attempts to solve the IP crisis will be more artful than the ideas brought forth in this thread up to now. And we all agree they are necessary, no matter to which extreme either of us tends to move. The new technology has made it possible and by that inevitable. The Piraten will accelerate the debate and the research, in favour of the people who did not have a lobby in the discussion up to now, and that is a good thing.

And just to point this out, the free market is experimenting hard with these things. Merck and others had good, profitable reasons to support making the mapping of the human genome open source, just as an example. If anyone needs some coffee table science book to complement this political news of the day, I recommend "Wikinomics" by Tapscott and Williams.
19:48 September 19, 2011 by Englishted
If the pirates had won would Johnny Depp have been the mayor?

FD.P. gone and soon forgotten.
23:17 September 19, 2011 by bartschaff
@CharlieBravo: it seems that you are just not taking in how the technology is changing the economy. My guess is you would be complaining of machines taking jobs in the 20th century. Also, you completely ignored the (already quite old) examples of open TV and free email (as well as thousands of other online services), which all are profitable through ads.

Paying voluntarily is not laughable at all. It works very well with restaurants, for example (where people, in average, actually end up paying a more than the usual/suggested price). Besides, people buying in iTunes are actually paying voluntarily - they could equally easily download for free.

But the worst is your rant against open source. Open source software, to stay with the most obvious example, is highly beneficial to the industry (and to the people!), in more ways than one could fit in this post.
14:58 September 21, 2011 by CharlieBravo
@bartschaff - which restaurants does it work very well in? Can you back up your claim with facts? My question to you is, would you work voluntarily and allow your boss to decide how much he wants to pay you each month? I am sure you wouldn't.

But why stop at free content on-line? Why not apply that philosophy across the board. Voluntarily pay on public transport or in the supermarkets and shops. Voluntarily pay for services all around. What about voluntary housing rent as well? And whilst we are at it.. what about voluntary taxes, or even taxi's?

Your argument is paper thin. A city and country runs on its economy and the jobs it creates (or doesn't). Your idea of a free for all, increases unemployment and increases the already burgeoning debt on the city of Berlin. Tell me how you fill the hole created by destroying an entire industry and I might start to take you seriously.
18:57 September 23, 2011 by ErnestPayne
The Pirates won? Pittsburgh (baseball) and the spirit of Robert Newton (Disney version of Treasure Island) must be thrilled.
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