The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Elections become a nail-biter for Bern’s mayor

Bern's mayor Alec von Graffenried must fear for his third term in office. The Green is being challenged by the SP. The red-green alliance, which has governed Bern for 32 years, is thus facing a test of strength.

The SP explained the decision of its base behind closed doors on Monday evening, saying that the electorate should have a choice. The party is also responding to criticism from the public about the current administration.

Councillor Marieke Kruit, who has headed the Directorate of Civil Engineering, Transport and Urban Greenery since 2021, is entering the race. The former "Telebärn" presenter and wife of former Berset confidant Peter Lauener enjoys sympathy deep into the middle-class camp.

For the SP, Kruit is to reclaim the office of mayor, which was in social democratic hands for decades until 2016. Then von Graffenried came along and became mayor from a standing start. He is a member of the Green Free List, a moderate force within the green camp.

Superiority wobbles

Von Graffenried was also recently criticized by the Green Alliance, another alliance partner in the government. There is a simple reason why the three parties should not go easy on each other in the election campaign: their superiority in the five-member city government is shaky.

This is made possible by five parties running together for the first time on a broad center-right list. As the city government is elected on a proportional basis, they have a good chance of winning two seats.

Observers expect the GLP to take the top spot, with National Councillor Melanie Mettler entering the race. She could now also run for mayor. Her party was still keeping a low profile on Tuesday. Behind Mettler, the centrist and FDP candidates are considered to have the best chances of winning a seat on the municipal council.

Green against green

If the center-right wins two seats, someone in the red-green party will have to jump over the razor's edge. As the strongest party in the city of Berne, the SP has little to worry about. With Kruit and National Councillor Matthias Aebischer, it has a popular duo at the start. By contrast, the election could be a nail-biter for the Green camp.

The Green Alliance candidate, city councillor Ursina Anderegg, needs to raise her profile in the election campaign. However, she has stronger backing than Mayor von Graffenried. In addition, women traditionally have good electoral chances in red-green Bern.

Von Graffenried is regarded as a gifted campaigner. However, critics find his leadership role difficult, he wants to please everyone and does not always communicate clearly. In his second term of office, he suffered setbacks, in particular the failed merger with Ostermundigen.

To keep his job, he has to overcome two hurdles in the fall. Firstly, he must prevail against strong competition in the Stapi election. Secondly, he must be confirmed as a member of the city government.

Women soon to be in the majority

It is already clear that the city government will be completely renewed. Because with Kruit and von Graffenried, only two incumbents are standing.

The federal city can also look forward to a majority of women. One or two women will be elected on the red-green list, depending on the number of seats. The same applies to the center-right list, where the only man running - a young SVP parliamentarian - is considered an outsider.

A majority of women in Bern's city government is nothing new, by the way. The first was back in 1993, which made international headlines at the time. The motto was "Women at the crisis point" because the city was deeply in debt.

This changed in the following years. The red figures disappeared, as did the female majority. But now the wind has changed. The city's financial situation has deteriorated noticeably since 2019.

©Keystone/SDA

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