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Konrad Werner: It’s balls to the wall time for Michael Müller

Konrad is not completely clear on what that expression means, but it seems to fit the situation of Berlin's crabbed and awkward mayor.

Image for Konrad Werner: It's balls to the wall time for Michael Müller
Michael Müller. Photo by Sebaso (CC BY-SA 4.0)

You might have noticed the Berlin government getting busy in the last week or so. On Monday and then Wednesday there were two high-profile raids against organised crime in the city – the “Arab clans” in Neukölln and the “Hells Angels” in the Artemis brothel – though, as usual with such raids, the press acted as the police’s PR wing, reporting as fact everything the cops said, and amplifying every suspicion they raised and every panic-inducing keyword they dropped. They even helpfully parroted the “Al Capone” soundbite the cops fed them (“Tax evasion! That’s how they got him, you know.”).

I’m not saying Artemis is not a “meeting place” for Hells Angels and other criminal gangs (though you wonder how it could be a venue for more than one. Maybe they alternated Wednesday nights?) but as only one paper – the B.Z. – pointed out, the place was open for business the very next day. So where does that leave us? Then on Friday, the Senat showed off its new housing plan – 45,000 to 50,000 new apartments in the next 15 years. (Weirdly, this didn’t get as much attention in the international press.)

It’d probably be cynical to point out that there’s an election coming up in September, and Mayor Michael Müller’s approval ratings have been tanking, along with the ratings of the two government parties, the SPD and the CDU. But then again, if it takes the prospect of an imminent end to their political careers to light a fire under the arses of Müller and Interior Minister Frank Henkel (his biggest rival for the job when the election comes), then that’s what it takes. Who are we to complain?

Last week, the polls said six parties could enter the Berlin parliament – the Pirates (remember when they were the craziest new party in Germany? Weren’t those happy days?) will be replaced by the AfD (now on 13 percent); and the FDP, who have decided they’re going to compete with the CDU at being “Diet AfD”, could sneak back in as well. Both the Greens and Die Linke are holding steady (at 16-17 percent), which means the AfD’s rise seems to be coming at the expense of the two ruling – and competing – parties, Müller’s SPD and Henkel’s CDU. In another poll, two-thirds of the electorate said they were dissatisfied with the government, and as things stand now, they won’t get enough votes to stay in power as a coalition.

Müller has the most to lose. When he took over from Klaus Wowereit, the whole point of him was to be boring and solid and practical. The anti-Wowereit was supposed to stay out of the celebrity wheelhouse and get shit done: the airport built, homes built (but not on Tempelhofer Feld please), and refugees integrated (but not on Tempelhofer Feld please). In the end, what he’s done best is get jobs for his old SPD friends so that they could come up with a vague and inconclusive “integration masterplan”. Now he’s even caught in a leadership battle with Berlin SPD party leader Jan Stöß. He needs to get in gear.

There’s more where all this came from on Konrad’s news podcast with US comedian Drew Portnoy: