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German election: How Bonn voted and the issues most important to residents

German election : How Bonn voted and the issues most important to residents

It was an extremely tight race at both national and local levels; here is a summary of the results nationally and in Bonn. Some main issues were likely to have influenced Bonn residents at the polls, a description of these follows.

Germans went to the polls on Sunday to determine who would succeed Angela Merkel after 16 years in power. Voters cast two votes, the first for a direct candidate in their local district to represent them in parliament and the second for the political party of their choice.

At national level, the SPD party (Olaf Scholz) won the election with 25.7 percent, and the CDU/CSU (Armin Laschet) came in a close second with 24.1 percent. The Greens (Annalena Baerbock) came in third with 14.8 percent, followed by the FDP with 11.5 percent, the AfD with 10.3 percent, and the Left at 4.9 percent. This means the SPD is the strongest party and wants Olaf Scholz to be the next chancellor; now they must form a coalition.

It was extremely close also in Bonn: after hours of a neck-and-neck race, Katrin Uhlig from the Green Party finally prevailed over her competitors from the SPD and CDU, Jessica Rosenthal and Christoph Jansen, by just a few votes. Still, as of Monday morning, Bonn is now represented in the Bundestag with at least three members: Katrin Uhlig (Greens) with 25.24 percent, Jessica Rosenthal (SPD) with 25.12 percent and FDP candidate Alexander Graf Lambsdorff with 12.6 percent.

Last night, Uhlig had just left the Greens' election party at Café Blau when she learned of her narrow victory: "It was an incredibly exciting race. I'm glad that the voters put their trust in me." For her, it was clearly a vote for climate-friendly policies and the mobility revolution.

Christoph Jansen reacted to his loss: "We were only a few heartbeats apart the whole time," says the CDU politician, who is the district mayor in Bad Godesberg. He views the result quite positively: "For me, this is already a personal success in view of the headwinds that the CDU is facing at the federal level." One thing is certain for the CDU politician: he will probably not enter the Bundestag via his place on the NRW state list. "I didn't expect that from the beginning anyway," he says.

Dörner, who sat in the Bundestag for eleven years until she became Mayor of Bonn, is pleased with the success of Greens party candidate Uhlig: "This is a sensational result for the Greens in Bonn. Exactly one year after the municipal election and mayoral election, a confirmation for Green politics in Bonn." Before she went home, she hugged Katrin Uhlig, who stopped by the Stadthaus once again.

Clear trend: The Greens emerge as the clear winners in the second votes in the city of Bonn. With 27.2 percent at 9:30 p.m., they were ahead of the SPD (22.58 percent) and the CDU (22.53 percent). Compared to the last federal elections four years ago, the Greens have gained 13.1 percentage points, while the CDU has lost 7.2 percentage points. The SPD gained 2.5 percentage points. The FDP, AfD and Left Party lose ground compared to the 2017 election.

Issues which may have influenced Bonn voters at the polls

Bonn Agreement

This is the agreement made after the capital of Germany was moved from Bonn to Berlin. It was created with the intention of determining the future of the second seat of government in Bonn, after more and more ministry posts relocated to Berlin over the years. In essence, it is about negotiating millions of euros of compensation from the federal government as Bonn’s role is downsized.

In 2019, a strategic plan was released together with the other local governments in the region and the state of NRW. On the “wish list” were measures to strengthen Bonn as a location for international affairs, science and culture. It included funding for the "Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies" planned by the university, for the Arp Museum, the expansion of railways, roads and high-speed cycle paths. The Bonn Agreement was even part of the coalition agreement between the CDU and SPD in the federal government, but the Interior Minister at the time, Horst Seehofer (CSU) did not follow up on the agreement. There was not even an initial meeting.

It is uncertain whether things will be better after this election: The number of members in the Bundestag who still have a connection to the Bonn Republic is dwindling - and the Berlin/Bonn Act, which provides for the majority of ministry posts to be in Bonn, is not written in stone.

Bonn as an international location

The federal government most recently brought the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts to Bonn and has generously supported the United Nations site for two decades. This is likely to continue. The federal government was considering expanding conference capacities in Bonn in addition to the World Conference Center. But there is no more talk of this.

Ticketless public transportation

A strong SPD in the government coalition could drastically change the financing of bus and rail services in Bonn in the intermediate term. Their program for the future includes ticketless local transportation, which is to be realized through income-dependent fees: All citizens would then pay, even if they never use public transport. Direct candidate Jessica Rosenthal, who is the federal chairwoman of the “Jusos” - the youth organization affiliated with the SPD, wants Bonn to be a model city for this idea.

Speed limit 30

The nationwide introduction of 30 km/h is a demand made by both Mayor Katja Dörner (Greens) and the city council coalition but attempts to introduce such a model at national level have so far not worked. The federal government and parliament have it in their hands to change the federal guidelines. As of now, the legal speed limit is 50 kilometers per hour in built-up areas. The SPD, Greens and Left Party advocate 30 km/h as the standard speed limit and 50 km/h on a few busy roads. The CDU, FDP and AfD oppose such a change.

Rents

High rents are one of Bonn's burning issues. A new coalition could intervene in rents nationwide. In Berlin, a rent cap was applied but it also had negative side effects. According to studies, prices have fallen, but the supply has decreased, and at the same time more apartments have been sold. The CDU/CSU and the FDP believe that rent caps are the wrong way to ease the burden on tenants. They argue for better framework conditions to enable faster and cheaper construction on the free market. By contrast, the SPD, Greens and Left argue in favor of a cap because housing is a fundamental right.

Land to build on is particularly scarce in Bonn. In 2018, the Bundestag passed a directive from the Federal Real Estate Agency (Bima), which is based here, allowing cities to buy land from the federal government on more favorable terms in order to build low cost public housing. Mayor Dörner has already publicly formulated such a demand. In Bonn, for example, the former Ermekeil barracks in the southern part of the city belong to the federal government.