Not only the German Social Democrats were in luck on Sunday’s election night. Because, apart from the victory of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in the first general elections of the post-Angela Merkel era, the Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Company initiative was a resounding success.
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Those responsible for this citizen initiative, which has organized a referendum in Berlin for the expropriation of homes from the large companies that own the capital, celebrated the triumph of “yes” in that consultation at the same time that the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz celebrated his victory. On Sunday night it was already perceived that the ballots in favor of “yes” were going to be a majority. This morning, according to the data of the count, the “yes” was in 56.4% of the votes. The “no” had collected a “39%”.
The initiative Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Company wants to expropriate the players in the Berlin real estate market with more than 3,000 rental homes. In total, it is estimated that there are more than 240,000 homes targeted by the initiative. The name of this citizen mobilization refers especially to the Deutsche Wohnen company, a firm that has 155,408 rental homes, most of them on the Berlin market.
“We Berliners have decided: no one should speculate with our homes,” said Joana Kusiak, spokesperson for the initiative, on Sunday night. The militants of this mobilization organized in the capital an electoral evening like that of the rest of the large German parties that competed in the general elections and, also in Berlin, in the local elections.
In the elections for the Berlin City Council, the also Social Democrat Franziska Giffey prevailed. He did it in a slim victory over aspiring environmentalist Bettina Jarasch. Both are the main ones concerned by the results of the referendum. It largely depends on them which type of coalition will govern the capital for the next five years.
The referendum, which was not binding, is probably one of the greatest means of pressure that citizens have to demand public action. “Whatever its composition, the future government coalition will have to apply the socialization of housing companies. The demand for socialization gathers many more votes than any party ”, according to Kusiak.
So much so that the initiative Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen and Company claimed 56.4% this Monday that they already wanted Giffey or Jarasch for themselves. The Berlin SPD won Sunday’s elections with 21.4% of the votes, ahead of Los Verdes (18.9%) and the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the third political force with 18.1%. Social democrats and environmentalists could revalidate the three-way coalition that has ruled in Berlin for the last five years with the leftist formation Die Linke. This one got 14% of the votes on Sunday.
However, of the left-wing political forces, only Die linke has supported the expropriation referendum. In the SPD, Giffey rejects the idea and, in Los Verdes, Jarasch considers it as a “last option”. The head of Jarasch, the co-president of Los Verdes and frustrated candidate for chancellor of the environmental party, Annalena Baerbock, has been more than skeptical of the media that the organizers of the referendum demand.
Under these conditions, politics may spoil what the progressive newspaper Die Tageszeitung he saw in his opinion pages this Monday as “a turning point” in the German political debate. “The end of the neoliberal model is really at hand for the first time,” Erik Peter wrote in the newspaper. For this reason, the initiative does not demobilize once the referendum has been won. With the result of the consultation, the time seems to have come to present political leaders with demands based on the results of participatory democracy.
Now, for a roadmap to develop the expropriation law
In this sense, Rouzbeh Taheri, another of those responsible for expropriating Deutsche Wohnen and Company, pointed out on election night to the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that in the initiative they hope that “regardless of the next government coalition [en Berlín], it writes a clear roadmap for the elaboration of a socialization law and that it begins to prepare it immediately ”.
In favor of their cause, Taheri, Kusiak and company not only have the result of the referendum. The polls carried out in Berlin on which problems concern the inhabitants of the capital the most, show that those related to rents and housing are in the forefront. This explains, for example, that in the local elections, 32% of voters considered that rent and housing were the most decisive issue when casting their vote, according to a recent survey by the Civey institute published by Der Tagesspiegel.
The local political chronicle indicates that the success of Expropriating Deutsche Wohnen and Company will play an important role in the forthcoming negotiations to form a government team in the Berlin City Council. The Berlin militants of the tenant movement hope that this will be the case.