Germany’s Constitutional Court to Review September Elections Following Allegations of Irregularities

By Prakash Gogoi | October 20, 2021
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Widespread irregularities in the recent Berlin elections have been reported. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Following widespread allegations of irregularities, the Constitutional Court of Berlin has announced that it will conduct a review of Germany’s September election results. The elections for federal, state, and local council levels were held on September 26.

On election day, many voters were left waiting for hours to cast their vote at the polling centers owing to a shortage of ballot papers. In addition, there is speculation that minors were allowed to cast their vote due to certain loopholes.

As the streets were shut down for the Berlin Marathon that was scheduled on the same day, there was a substantial delay in sending ballots from polling stations that had a surplus to stations that had run out of them. There has been a considerable amount of criticism concerning how the elections were held with some referring to the process as “shoddy”. This has called into question Germany’s reputation for efficiency in conducting elections.

The many glitches that occurred during election day have triggered calls for results to be closely scrutinized. 

Berlin’s election commissioner Petra Michaelis resigned following the election. She admitted that the results of the state election might have been impacted due to various violations that took place.  

For instance, even though polling was officially closed at 6 p.m. local time, voters who were still in line to cast their ballot were permitted to do so. Some polling stations ran out of ballot paper that day while some received ballots for the wrong district. As a result, many ballots were declared invalid at polling stations.

Michaelis is specifically concerned about election results in two districts; constituency 6 in the western Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district and constituency 1 in the eastern Marzahn-Hellersdorf district. 

Since the margin of votes between the first and second place candidates is small, there is a possibility that election day irregularities could have affected the result. She referred the issue to Berlin’s State Constitutional Court. It is now up to the court to decide on whether re-polling is needed in the two districts.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) had earlier stated that it had “noted” some issues with the polling centers in Berlin. According to a Deutsche Welle (DW) report, 207 out of the 2,257 polling centers, or roughly one in ten, had election irregularities.  

However, there is no indication that such irregularities would be sizable enough to overturn the election results. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had lost to the Social Democrat Party (SPD) in the election. 

But, despite being victorious, the SPD could not secure enough of the vote share to become the dominant party. This ultimately led to leader Olaf Sholz having to negotiate with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).Patrick Sensburg, a member of CDU and chairman of the Bundestag election review committee, has asked for a full reelection. “In the Berlin election for the House of Representatives, I see objective violations of the electoral law,” he said.