Election Schedule

Berlin’s Marathon Headache

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany has yet to confirm the date the general election will be held. The government’s preferred date is September 24, but on that day Berlin will also organize its annual marathon, and city officials fear a logistical nightmare if the election is held on that day.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The Berlin marathon is a hugely popular event that usually takes place on the last Sunday of September each year. Along with numerous sports professionals and record-breaking world champions, tens of thousands of sports enthusiasts take part in the race.
    • Germany’s general elections, during which voters elect their lawmakers, are held every four years in the fall.
    • In 2013, the city of Berlin faced the same problem as it does this year and the marathon was eventually postponed by a week. This year, however, this solution seems to be very impractical for logistical reasons.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Berlin-Marathon
Voters in Berlin may struggle to reach their local polling station. Source: Paul Zinken/DPA.

Save the date. After months of suspense, the government finally set a date for the next general election, on September 24.

The election is traditionally held in the early fall but until recently, it was unclear which September or October day would be selected.

However, Berlin’s local government has a scheduling clash as on that day, 40,000 sports enthusiasts take part in the city’s annual marathon. As every year, traffic will be disrupted all day due to street closures and during the main hours of the run, it will be almost impossible to cross the streets that are part of the 42-kilometer (26.2-mile) long race.

After Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière proposed the date, the last Sunday of September, Berlin state officials raised their concerns. But that date suited all of the other 15 federal states especially since it doesn’t coincide with a school holiday. President Joachim Gauck is soon expected to confirm the date.

“Without polling assistants, I can’t organize the election.”

Petra Michaelis-Merzbach, Berlin Electoral Committee Organizer

Berlin’s election manager Petra Michaelis-Merzbach called the prospect of organizing the election at the same time as the marathon “challenging.”

However, as the locations of the polling stations have not yet been established, the city will select locations as far from the marathon route as possible, Ms. Michaelis-Merzbach told daily Der Tagesspiegel, a sister publication of Handelsblatt.

SCC, the marathon organizers, might change the route the race takes if needed and the police have committed to clearing the streets as soon after the competition ends as possible.

Ms. Michaelis-Merzbach said she expects it might also be hard to recruit polling assistants because watching the race is so popular in Berlin. Although many choose to run or volunteer, the city will need 20,000 volunteers to support the election. “Without polling assistants, I can’t organize the election,” she said.

Rescheduling the marathon is out of the question for SCC, given the election date was only set recently while preparations for the marathon have long been underway. “We didn’t want to change the date in advance of knowing the exact election date,” a spokesperson for SCC told Tagesspiegel.

Berlin was stuck in the same conflict four years ago at the last election, when, in the end SCC postponed the race by a week.

 

Jean-Michel Hauteville is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: hauteville@handelsblatt.com.

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