Who to vote for in Berlin?

By Joel Dullroy, Radio Spaetkauf

Berliners will go to the polls to vote for their local councils and the city-state government on Sunday September 18 2016. Who should you vote for – if you can vote? Radio Spaetkauf decodes the parties and their programmes for you:

WHO CAN VOTE?

If you’re a European Union citizen and have registered your address with the Bürgeramt, you are eligible to vote – but only at the very local level, which is called the Bezirks-Verordneten-Versammlung, or BVV or short. You should have received a letter in the mail informing you of your polling station. If you didn’t get a letter, you aren’t registered and can’t vote.

You get one vote, and you can give it to one party. Each party has lists of candidates who are given seats depending on what percentage of votes they win. There are no independents in the BVV system. These local councils decide on street-level issues. Most importantly, they can decide whether to declare an area as a “Milieuschütgebeit”, which creates extra restrictions over housing policy – which is good for renters.

Not sure who to vote for? If you’re worried about your rent going up, check if the party supports more Milieuschützgebeit and rent controls. This is the most effective thing you can do with your local vote.

WHO IS PROMISING WHAT?

Here’s a run-down on the main parties and what they stand for, in order of how they’re currently polling:

SPD
Latest poll: 22% (down from 28%).
Leader: Michael Müller.
About: In power in Berlin for the past 27 years, as major coalition partner for the past 15. Oversaw (or overlooked) the BER disaster.
For: More investment in education, free lunches at schools, and free kindergartens.
Against: Spaetkaufs opening on Sundays, legal cannabis.

CDU
Leader: Frank Henkel.
Latest poll: 18% (down from 23% at last election).
About: Have been in coalition with the SPD since 2011. Got tough on protesters, squatters and drug dealers.
For: More police, more video cameras, using police in evictions.
Against: Gay marriage, burquas, streets named after Karl Marx.

BÜNDIS 90 / DIE GRÜNEN (THE GREENS)
Latest poll: 18% (17.6% at last election).
Leaders: Ramona Pop and Antje Kapek.
About: The only party to fully back the goals of the Volksentscheid Fahrrad (bicycle referendum).
For: Spaetkaufs open on Sundays, legalizing cannabis and same-sex marriage, body-cams on police.
Against: The A100 highway through Treptow/Friedrichshain.

DIE LINKE
Latest poll: 14% (17.6% at last election).
Leaders: Klaus Lederer.
About: Were part of the ruling coalition in the 2000s with Klaus Wowereit’s SPD.
For: Tougher rent controls, free kindergartens, legalizing cannabis and same sex marriage.
Against: Spaetkaufs opening on Sundays.

AFD
Latest poll: 14% (didn’t exist at last election).
Leaders: Georg Pazderski.
About: Nationalists, xenophobes, homophobes.
For: Border controls, less migration and refugees, zero tolerance on crime.
Against: Immigrants, non-traditional families, the TV tax.

FDP
Latest poll: 5% (1.8% at last election).
Leaders: Sebastian Czaja.
About: Trying to make a come-back after being destroyed at the last election.
For: Keeping Tegel airport open, building the A100 highway, English as a second bureaucratic language.
Against: The AirBnB crackdown, most regulation and taxes, investment in social housing.

DIE PIRATEN
Latest poll: Less than 3% (8.9% at last election).
Leaders: Bruno Kramm.
About: Were very effective in asking lots of questions in parliament and documenting the BER disaster.
For: Free public internet across Berlin, pilot project for unconditional basic income, free public transport.
Against: The A100 highway, video surveillance, the BER airport company.

OTHERS TO MENTION…

  • DIE PARTEI: A joke party that occasionally makes some prescient social points. Have already booked SO36 for their victory party.
  • BERGPARTEI: Another joke party, originally formed to build a mountain in Berlin.
  • DKP: The Communist party, promising lower rents and higher wages.
  • NPD: Almost Nazis. Germany’s main far-right party, before the AFD came along.
  • BÜRGERBEWEGUNG: Another right-wing party trying to trick voters with love hearts.

STILL NOT SURE WHO TO VOTE FOR?

Try using the Wahl-O-Mat website.

SO WHO IS GOING TO WIN?

The most likely outcome is a coalition between the SPD, Die Linke and Die Grünen. The CDU wants to stay in power in coalition with the SPD, but Michael Müller has said he’d prefer to share power with the Greens. At the last election, a potential SPD/Greens coalition failed to materialise because of disputes over the A100 highway. Those still exist, but the parties seem willing to work through it this time around. But the polls are close, and almost 30% of voters have told pollsters they are undecided. It’s still anyone’s game.

LEARN MORE:

Listen to the latest episode of Radio Spaetkauf for a full analysis of the election and possible outcomes, with some graphic design critique thrown in:

Refugees build Bureaucrazy app to solve German paperwork problems

bureaucrazy

A team of Syrian refugees in Berlin is building an app to help solve the problem of German paperwork. And it’s not just for refugees – all new arrivals in Germany will benefit from the app, which they’ve called Bureacrazy.

The app will allow a user to enter data in their own language, and prints out forms in German. It also gives tips on required documents and office locations.

It’s amazing no one thought to solve this common problem before. Even more amazing is that the Bureaucrazy team had no software development background before they arrived in Germany.

The app’s creators are Ghaith Zamrik, Munzer Khatt ab, Omar Alshafai and Salim Mohammad, all from Syria. They have arrived in Berlin over the past year after fleeing the war in Syria, and have been living in camps in sports halls and hotels across the city.

As they told Radio Spaetkauf recently:

“We started learning coding here in Berlin with the REDI School of Digital Integration. The best way to learn code is to start building an application,” Ghaith said.

In order to launch Bureaucrazy by January 1, the team now needs more support from professional coders and financial backers. You can contact them through their Facebook page.

Listen to their interview on Radio Spaetkauf here.

  • By Joel Dullroy, Radio Spaetkauf

Bring a Refugee to Mobile Kino Weekender

weekender banner

Radio Spaetkauf will be recording live at the Mobile Kino Weekender on July 31. Some of our guests will be Syrian refugees who are now living in Berlin. In order to bring them to the festival, we have to cover some costs.

Can you donate €40 to help bring a refugee to the Weekender? After all, festivals should be for all Berliners!

If you can donate, please send us an e-mail to hallo@radiospaetkauf.com. We’ll get back to you with some payment details shortly.

Thanks for your support, and see you at the Weekender!

British investors behind unlawful eviction that sparked fiery demonstrations in Berlin

Rigaer Str 94
Picture by Oliver Feldhaus, Umbruch Bildarchiv

By Joel Dullroy, Radio Spaetkauf

A British investment company is behind the escalating conflict between Berlin’s former squatter community and the city’s police, resulting in illegal evictions, demonstrations and car burnings.

Tensions have flared in recent months between police and the residents of Rigaer Straße 94, a former squat in the district of Friedrichshain. The building is owned by Lafone Investments Limited, a one pound company with registered offices in London.

More than 300 police raided the property on June 22 and evicted some of the tenants, including a bar called Kadterschmeide run by a community association. They were acting on a request by Lafone Investments Limited, which sought police protection for builders hired to renovate the property.

On Wednesday July 13 a Berlin court found the eviction was unlawful. There was no official eviction order in place to justify the removal of the tenants and their property. The police had effectively participated in an illegal property invasion on behalf of a foreign investor.

The court decision followed a fiery weekend of demonstrations and retaliatory car burnings in Berlin. On Saturday July 9 an estimated 3500 people marched through Friedrichshain demanding an end to police actions against Rigaer Staße residents. Around 1800 riot police followed the demonstrators and kettled them on Warschauer Brücke with a water cannon truck positioned at one end, and used tear gas on the crowds. Some demonstrators set off flares and threw cobblestones at the police.

An official statement from the police claimed 123 officers were injured, although only one required hospitalization. The police definition of officer injury can include heat stress and reaction to tear gas. There were eleven car burning reported across Berlin on the same evening. Car burnings have long been used as an anti-gentrification tactic by the so-called autonomous scene. They have flared again in recent months in retaliation against police actions in Friedrichshain.

Opposition politicians in Berlin have critized the city’s police minister, Frank Henkel from the CDU, who ordered the crackdown on Rigaer Straße and the autonomous scene. Rather than fostering peace, Mr. Henkel and his police department now stand accused of fermenting conflict. Following the court order, Mr. Henkel now appears to have supported an unlawful eviction on behalf of the property owner.

However, the true identity of the building owner remains unclear. The property was purchased in 2014 by Lafone Investments Limited. Company registration documents state that company’s single one pound share is held by Mr. John Dewhurst, a London-based lawyer. He was also listed as the sole company director until July 8, when he removed himself from the position. His name appears in the Panama Papers as a shareholder of Platinum Investment International Corporation, a shell company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Mr. Dewhurst has told German media that he is not the real owner of the company or building, but merely acting on behalf of the anonymous owner. In Berlin, the owner is represented by Hausverwaltung Centurius, a building management company.

Although Rigaer Straße 94 is often reported to be a squat, it is in fact a normal and legally occupied residential building. The property was originally squatted in 1990, but the residents signed contracts to rent their apartments in 1992 with the then-owner, a public housing company. The building was sold to a private owner in 2000, and again in 2014 to Lafone Investments Limited. In 2015 the property’s new owner began attempting to evict the tenants, sparking the current conflicts.

For more background to the Rigaer Straße police raids, listen to Radio Spaetkauf’s February podcast on which we interview journalist John Riceberg:

No more crazy columns on U-Bahn windows

The BVG gets a fresh perspective. Pay attention to the bottom of the columns.
The BVG gets a fresh perspective. Pay attention to the bottom of the columns.

After years of aggravating Berlin artists with its twisted perspective, the BVG has finally started fixing the design of its window stickers.

Last year the BVG promised to do something about the wonky sketch of the Brandenburg Gate printed on the protective sheeting on U-Bahn windows. Finally a new sticker design is being rolled out. The feet of the crazy columns have been slightly adjusted to make more spatial sense, and the lines have been slimmed down.

This comes in response to years of complaints about the design. But annoyed graphic designers will have to wait a while longer before the old image disappears, as the BVG is only rolling it out on a replacement basis.

For now, the improved Brandenburg Gate sketch can only be seen on the doors of some of the H-model U-Bahn carriages – those are the newish long interconnected trains – not the old F-model carriages.

Want to hear more about Berlin public transport and other local topics? Listen to the Radio Spaetkauf news show here.

– By Joel Dullroy, Radio Spaetkauf

The old design with its wonky legs.
The old design with its wonky legs.