Germany’s top court mandates partial repeat of 2021 national election over polling glitches

  • Germany’s highest court ordered a partial rerun of the 2021 national election in Berlin due to severe glitches at many polling stations in the capital.
  • The rerun is limited and unlikely to significantly impact the majority of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party government in the Bundestag.
  • The 2021 election day in Berlin faced logistical difficulties, with polling stations running out of ballot papers and issues with exit polls.

Germany’s highest court on Tuesday ordered the 2021 national election to be partially repeated in Berlin because of severe glitches at many polling stations in the capital.

The rerun is much too limited to endanger the majority of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s unpopular three-party government and appears unlikely to have any other significant effects on the composition of parliament’s lower house, the Bundestag.

The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the election must be repeated in 455 of 2,256 precincts in the city. It largely upheld a decision by the parliament, which decided last year on a limited rerun with the votes of Scholz’s coalition, though it slightly widened the scope of the new vote.


The issue landed at the court after Germany’s main conservative opposition bloc complained, seeking a much more extensive rerun. Berlin’s top election official, Stephan Bröchler, said that the new vote would be held on Feb. 11.

A man casts his ballot for the German elections in a polling station in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 26, 2021. Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has ordered the 2021 national election to be partially repeated in the German capital because of severe glitches at many polling stations. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

Opinion polls now paint a very different picture from the results of the 2021 election, with two of three parties in the governing coalition far below their level in that vote. However, a rerun in about one-fifth of precincts in the capital isn’t enough to change the overall result significantly.

Berlin held four votes on Sept. 26, 2021: the German national election, a state election, a vote for the city’s 12 district assemblies and a local referendum. The Berlin Marathon, also held the same day, added to logistical difficulties.

Some polling stations ran out of ballot papers during the day, and others received ones for the wrong district, leading to a large number of invalidated ballots.


Another issue was that exit polls were made public even though some voters who were waiting in line at the close of the polling stations at 6 p.m. were allowed to cast their ballots.

The state election held that day was completely rerun in February and resulted in a change of the local government, with conservative Kai Wegner replacing center-left Social Democrat Franziska Giffey as mayor. Berlin is one of three German cities that is also a state in its own right.

Voters were angered by the 2021 election chaos and what, by German standards, is a dysfunctional bureaucracy — in recent years, getting basic paperwork done in Berlin has often entailed lengthy waits even to get an appointment. The city has long defied cliches of German efficiency.

Germany’s next national election is due in the fall of 2025.


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