The members of second Senate of the German Constitutional Court during Judgement at the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Germany, 19 December 2023. EPA-EFE/RONALD WITTEK


Hundreds of Berlin districts must rerun 2021 national elections, court rules


Germany’s Constitutional Court has ruled 455 districts in Berlin have to hold votes again following chaotic national elections three years ago in the German capital.

The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe said there were such serious deficiencies on election day, September 26, 2021, that a new round of votes will have to be held in those affected constituencies.

The fresh elections should be held within the next 60 days, most likely in early February.

The ruling stems from a complaint filed by the Christian Democratic Union CDU/CSU parliamentary faction regarding election scrutiny. The CDU found the conclusion of the German Parliament, which had examined complaints, to be insufficient and went to court.

In its judgment the Constitutional Court scrutinised potential election mistakes affecting the allocation of seats in the national Parliament. It found irregularities in an additional 31 constituencies beyond those found by Parliament.

The 2021 elections, which were both national and municipal, took place in Berlin at the same time as a marathon. There was also a referendum on the same day

Many in the city had to wait more than 90 minutes before they could cast their votes. There were reports of ballot-paper shortages and administrative mix-ups at numerous polling locations.

Some polling stations in the Friedrichshain district received ballot papers marked Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, another district, and were forced to close until the correct papers were provided.

Such confusion appears to have resulted in a number of infractions of electoral rules.

Votes cast on faulty ballots were declared null and void.

The disorganisation prompted 1,713 formal complaints, more than eight times the number received after the previous elections.

About a fifth of the city’s 2,256 constituencies will now have to hold votes again.

Another rerun earlier this year of the 2021 municipal elections –  held on the same day – resulted in a new Berlin mayor being elected, Kai Wegner, a Christian Democrat. He was the first non-Socialist Berlin mayor for 22 years.

Despite the limited scope of the new rerun, the results might impact the current Government, which is less popular than two years ago.

There could be implications for the hard-left Die Linke party. In 2021, it fell just short of the 5 per cent threshold required for nationwide representation. Despite this, under Germany’s elaborate electoral system, which also provides for directly elected parliamentarians, the party was awarded dozens of seats, including seats in Berlin.

Given that Die Linke is imploding, the Constitutional Court decision could result in the loss of a vital seat and thus remove its presence in Parliament altogether.

The party disputes this, claiming the number of districts involved is too small to have such a dramatic effect.

The latest decision marks the second time Germany’s top court has disrupted Berlin.

In mid-November, it torpedoed the Federal Government’s budget plans by ruling that the transfer of billions of euros in pandemic-related debt to a separate climate fund was illegal.