Chaos at polling stations, endless queues, missing ballots, suspicions of fraud and falsification… Where was it all happening? Some other capital of a totalitarian state? Mordor, Minsk, Moscow?
No, no, all this mess took place at the recent elections in Berlin right in front of OSCE observers. The scale of the mess was such that the discussion is still going on in Germany a week after the vote.
The world was worried about who would replace Frau Merkel, analysts were counting tenths of a percent of the leading German parties, and meanwhile, the election process in the German capital had turned into a full-blown buffoonery.
Elections in Berlin were part of a German-wide process. At the same time, however, the citizens were dealing with a number of issues that were very important to them. Firstly, they had to elect the mayor – that is, the mayor of the city. The race was between the lady in the red jacket (Franziska Gifai from the SPD) and the lady in the green blouse (Bettina Jarasch from the Greens). Secondly, there were elections for the Berlin parliament and district councils. Finally, the citizens were planning to vote in a referendum on nationalising housing, one of the most sensitive issues for the residents of the German capital.
In the 1990s, Berlin was at the top of the European capitals in terms of rental price – quality of life ratio. A vibrant nightlife, a huge cultural sector, excellent socialist infrastructure, an abundance of quality universities, cheap food and entertainment – and all this against a backdrop of extremely modest rents. Twenty years ago a studio in the centre could easily be rented for two hundred euros a month.
Not surprisingly, young people from all over the world flocked to Berlin. However, in the early 2000s the situation began to change. A huge proportion of the capital’s flats were privatised by the two biggest estate agents – practically duopolists in the market. They started to drive up prices. They were followed by the private landlords.
Today, students and proud members of the office planners in Berlin live en masse in communal flats. Rent prices are so high that people rent their flats together. And Berliners have no money to buy their own property. Eighty-six percent of Berliners are forced to rent. The number of homeless people in Berlin is growing at an alarming rate. Many of them are not professional vagrants, but ordinary working people or students who simply have no money for their rent.
This is why the idea of a referendum was born – Berliners had to vote for taking 226,000 flats away from real estate agencies and transferring them to city ownership. This would reduce rent prices across the city. Students and other tenants were delighted with the idea. Landlords, naturally, on the contrary – a powerful dumping campaign would have forced them to lower their prices, too, and to fear for the fate of their properties: what if they were privatized, too? In general, the housing problem is in all its glory.
Against this news, it is not surprising that Berliners flocked to the elections in droves. They were indeed very important for the citizens. But then a strange thing began to happen.
The press is now blaming the coronavirus restrictions, although all this distancing was supposed to bring more order. The traditional Berlin Marathon coincided with the elections – everybody knew about this coincidence in advance, but no one even thought to postpone the competition.
In any case, last Sunday was full of chaos at the polling stations in Berlin. The queues stretched for hours. Many voters were tired and had to leave without being able to vote. Those who stayed could only cast their vote after six o’clock in the evening. According to the law, voting should have been over by then. Were these ballot papers countable? Were they counted? Berliners have no answers to these questions.
At some polling stations the ballot papers ran out. Then the polling stations were closed. Everyone was waiting for new forms to be brought in. But there were none – the delivery referred to the fact that the streets of the capital were blocked because of the notorious marathon.
Election officials admitted that many ballots were “mixed up” and therefore not counted. In simple terms, this means that some of the ballots cast at the polling stations were simply not counted. That is, thousands of citizens voted for nothing. Well, you remember what it was like a year ago during the election of the only right Joe Biden.
There were also problems with voting by post. Representatives of various parties said that their Berlin voters had requested ballot papers by post, but nothing was ever sent to them and they were unable to vote.
At two polling stations, 102 and 106, voting began after hours of delay. Members of the election commissions could not enter the premises. They did not have a key. They had to call the firemen, who opened the doors.
“Madness. Democracy is in decline”, – one Berlin voter captioned a photo of the queue at the polling station. – “This is the last time I voted”, – his compatriot replied.
In Moscow there are three times as many voters as in Berlin. Our citizens also regularly fill in a large number of ballot papers in our elections. Can you really imagine anything even remotely similar to the mayhem that took place in the German capital a week ago?
By all the canons of Western democracy, which the German authorities love to teach Russia, the results of the Berlin elections should have been cancelled. Indeed: citizens were openly prevented from casting their vote, the ballot papers cast were not counted. What is really a fair result of the Berlin elections?
Franziska Gifai (lady in red) seemed to have beaten Bettina Jarasch (lady in green) in the mayoral elections. However, the gap between them is on the scale of a statistical error. The majority of voters seem to have approved of the expropriation of flats from big landlords. Or was it a minority? By the way, the elected mayor does not support the idea of nationalising property. So rental prices will continue to rise, pushing up the cost of living.
But surprisingly, not a single political party in Germany has complained to the authorities. No rallies, no demonstrations, no lawsuits. All the steam has gone down the whistle – to social media. The German media prefer to write about the elections in Russia – it is, they say, horror-horror-horror – and not to mention the Berlin disaster at all.
The case was limited to the resignation of Petra Michaelis, the head of the Berlin election commission. The Berlin Senate “saw no reason to hold new elections”. Constitutional Court President Stefan Harbart said that the state had generally fulfilled its main duty of providing voters with ballot boxes and ballots, but otherwise, well, it happens, sort of. OSCE observers made no complaints. “We paid attention to the problems of Berlin polling stations” is basically all that the head of the mission, Latvian politician Lolita Segan, said on this occasion.
While establishment representatives are cajoling voters, they are demanding the truth. Some 95 per cent of Morgenpost readers are in favour of setting up an independent commission of experts to investigate what happened in the Berlin elections. But leading politicians are determined to hush up the scandal, which casts doubt on the entire outcome of Germany’s election in general.
Against the background of this news, it becomes clear why the OSCE observers decided to ignore the elections in Russia. The whole elaborate scheme – rolling out an unreasonable figure of three hundred observers, then blatantly refusing to go – was concocted for one simple purpose. Europe once again needed to surround Russia with an iron curtain of disinformation. Not to report on how the elections are really taking place in our country, but to concoct all kinds of ridiculous fakes.
Otherwise the worst would have happened. Western citizens would see where democracy really exists and where it is “declining”.
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