Ex-insurance salesman elected unlikely mayor of Berlin

AFP - [email protected] • 27 Apr, 2023 Updated Thu 27 Apr 2023 19:55 CEST
Ex-insurance salesman elected unlikely mayor of Berlin
Kai Wegner (CDU) arrives at the Rotes Rathaus for the handover of the mayoral seat. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Pool | Christoph Soeder

Berlin appointed its first conservative mayor in more than two decades on Thursday after the Christian Democrats (CDU) unseated the ruling left-wing coalition.


Kai Wegner, 50, a former insurance salesman who grew up in the city's Spandau neighbourhood, was sworn in as mayor after a vote in the local parliament confirming his appointment.

But celebrations were dampened by speculation that he may have been formally elected in the secret ballot with the help of the far-right AfD.

The CDU topped the polls in a rerun election in February after the chaotic initial vote in 2021 was found not to meet basic procedural standards.

The original election had installed a coalition between Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the far left, but the rerun tipped the balance towards the conservatives.

READ ALSO: 'New direction': How Berlin is getting its first conservative-led government in decades

They then took up negotiations with the SPD, the second-biggest party, before presenting a coalition agreement earlier this month.

The Social Democrats recorded their worst post-war result in the capital in the February election, scraping second place a mere 53 votes ahead of the Greens.

The result spelt the end for the unhappy left-wing coalition led by SPD mayor Franziska Giffey, who will be demoted to economy minister in the new government.

Wegner was an unpopular choice for mayor with many of the SPD's more left-wing members.

He needed three rounds of votes to get elected after failing in the first two rounds to win an absolute majority.


And even then, questions were being asked about whether he would have succeeded without the AfD, which said it had voted for him.

Green politicians Bettina Jarasch and Werner Graf said the election was a "disastrous start to a government".

The fact the vote went to a third round suggested Wegner needed the support of the AfD, they said, adding the debacle had done "massive damage to the city, democracy and political culture".

The CDU and SPD have both said they want to prioritise home building and affordable living as rental prices in the capital have soared.

The original 2021 vote on the same day as national elections and the Berlin marathon was marred by mishaps including huge queues and some polling stations running out of ballots.


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