City Chief

The Shambolic Search for Berlin's Next Mayor

Nice office but a tough job.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Berlin needs a new major. The deadline for nominations is September 15 but so far the process has not been taken very seriously.

  • Facts


    • Klaus Wowereit, a social democrat, recently announced he will retire in December. He has been Berlin’s mayor since 2001.
    • During his time in office, Mr. Wowereit, or “Wowi”, oversaw construction of a new city airport, which has been repeatedly delayed.
    • The SPD has the mayoral seat for Berlin and is now casting around for new candidates to replace Mr. Wowereit.
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Berlin needs a new mayor now that Klaus Wowereit has resigned. There is no shortage of candidates lining up for the job, some of them hotshots, some of them loons, all of them full of ideas for the city.  And full of warm feelings towards the Social Democratic Party, or SPD, which would assign them this star role.

They’re not likely to neglect their own interests either. Take Dietmar Arnold, for example. He is keen to be considered as Wowereit’s successsor, and, as head of a group that researches the underworld of metros, tunnels and sewers beneath the city, he may have just the right background for the job.

The selection process seems like a grass roots democracy open to anyone who feels like applying.

The selection process seems like a grass roots democracy open to anyone who feels like applying. Who knows whether we’ll see other bids roll in from outer space before the September 15 deadline; Batman and Mickey Mouse could be among them.

All of this is infuriating for regular citizens, who don’t happen to be SPD members and can remember the saying by Richard von Weizsäcker, mayor of Berlin and Germany from 1984 to 1994: “Political parties shouldn’t take advantage of the government.”

It’s bad enough that the SPD decided to oust the mayor without asking voters first. They should at least pretend to take the process of finding his replacement seriously. If they don’t, there’s a danger that Berliners might feel justified in calling for a new election. And rightly so.

This story first appeared in Der Tagesspiegel. It was translated by Allison Williams. To contact the author:

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