Berlin Leans Left, Germany Turns Right

Last month's German elections were a resounding victory for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her CDU party. Every other major political party (the leftish SPD; the Greens; and The Left) lost ground to the CDU. The CDU's former coalition partners, the FDP, lost so much support that they no longer control any seats in the Bundestag. The CDU dominated in nearly every region in the country, as illustrated by the below map.

Blue regions are where the CDU and its sister party, the CSU, were the majority. Red regions were areas where the SPD won more votes.

Notice something in the northeastern section of the map? If you squint, you can see that it's the one area where you can find a few sections of purple. The purple sections represent regions where the extreme left-wing party, Die Linke ("the Left"), actually won a majority of votes. Perhaps not surprisingly, that section of the map is located in and around Berlin, the former capital of communist East Germany.

The election results are even more geographically defined when you look at results within Berlin. I found the below map courtesy of Michael Steen that breaks down election results within the city. The colors are the same as above: blue for CDU; red for SPD; and purple for Die Linke.  

CDU is blue; SPD is red; Green; Die Linke is Purple

As you can clearly see from the map, there is a stark geographical division between the eastern and western sections of the city. Die Linke won majorities in many sections of the former East Berlin and won 18.5% of the vote in Berlin overall. That is more than twice their national total of 8.6%. For an even more detailed look at electoral results in Berlin, go here.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise to those familiar with social divisions in Berlin since the early 1990s. Two of the most-gentrified sections of the city - Prinzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain - are located in former East Germany. After the wall came down, artists, hippies and young professionals flocked into these neighborhoods and jumpstarted a gentrification process that continues to this day.

Die Linke campaigned on a platform  of, among other things, increasing social protections; introducing a minimum wage; and raising taxes on the wealthy.

I'm not an expert on German politics, but I think that these issues found a welcome audience in eastern sections of the city for two reasons. First, there is the historical affiliation with communism. Second, eastern sections of the city are at the forefront of gentrification, so policies aiming to empower the working class can be expected to find fertile ground there.

Still, it's important not to read too much into Die Linke's relative success in Berlin. The city as a whole still gave the CDU the most votes, with 28.5% followed by the SPD's 24.6%. I'm not going out on a limb by saying that Berlin is more left-leaning than the rest of Germany. That's what nearly fifty years of communist rule in the East, and countercultural activity in the West, can do to a city.