Additional chairs are brought in just before the start. The room in the Hotel Rossi in Berlin-Moabit is filled to capacity. Around 150 people met there on Tuesday evening for the general meeting of the district association Mitte der Grünen.
It’s not a regular meeting. The meeting had been convened at short notice by the district board just over a week earlier. It was necessary because of the affair surrounding Mitte’s outgoing district mayor Stephan von Dassel (Greens) and a recruitment process in the district office, which he is said to have influenced.
But that is only the starting point. The topic has long since taken on a life of its own within the party and has brought to light the deep rifts between the wings and camps in the largest district association of the Greens in Germany, since Dassel’s own Green faction in the Mitte district assembly (BVV) called on Dassel to resign. Since then, the party has been fighting for power and sovereignty in a case in which each side has made serious allegations of damaging the Greens with their actions.
Even in advance, it seemed that the general meeting could no longer prevent von Dassel’s impending end. Some party members therefore expected a “tribunal” by the district executive, which was made up of von Dassel loyalists, against their own faction, which was partly responsible for the political end of the district mayor.
The escalation on the open stage seemed possible. Prominent Greens from other district associations also seemed to want to experience this live, such as the former mayor of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Monika Herrmann or Katrin Schmidberger, also from Kreuzberg and coordinator of the left wing of the party.
“The last two weeks have been very difficult for all of us,” said district board member Florian Maass. “These are not the manners that Bündnis 90/Die Grünen stand for.” The trust of the voters was not done justice. The district board once again blamed the parliamentary group and its decision to call on von Dassel to resign and to support his deselection.
Group member Shirin Kress disagreed. Since the first report about the case in the media, it has been clear: “None of us will come out of the number as winners.” “We do not tolerate any private influence on vacancies. The independence of the administration is a red line that must not be crossed.” There had been a “green taboo breach” that the parliamentary group could not accept.
As in his speech in the BVV, the accused himself admitted a mistake. At the same time, von Dassel defended his actions by saying that he only wanted the best for the district. “Unfortunately, the reality at the moment is that there is no progress in the district without great political, legal and sometimes personal risk.” In many cases he has recently taken this on himself for the benefit of the district. “That’s the only way I can explain my hubris of having made speeding up the recruitment process a top priority.”
Von Dassel ruled out resignation again. “I don’t see that this mistake has to be punished with the greatest possible sanction.” At the same time, he admitted for the first time that the financial aspect was also important. “Of course it plays a role that I lose all claims if I resign.”
Instead of 7,000 euros a month, as he will now in the coming years, he would only receive unemployment benefit I. After many years in the district office, the insults and threats he had to endure, he deserved something else.
In the discussion that followed, many members commented on the process and its consequences. Some criticized von Dassel, others backed him. The party members called for even more to settle the open dispute of the past few weeks.
“It demoralizes party members when you have to read something like that,” said one. “As a member, I’ve been following with unease for many years how hard bandages are fought here,” another. These trench warfare are “frightening” especially for new members. One can be proud of how much the party has grown. “But we have to be careful that we don’t lose it.”
Overall, the debate was largely factual. However, a few individual members managed to break this controlled impression. Former senator Sybille Volkholz defended von Dassel’s actions: “What Stephan did is common practice. But you don’t do that yourself and you don’t do that in writing.”
In an application, a party member indirectly compared the demand for resignation from his own faction with the Third Reich. Nevertheless, almost 19 percent of the members did not reject it in the vote.
After the party’s internal processing of the past few weeks, it was Stefanie Remlinger who looked to the future for the Greens. The previous education councilor is to become the new district mayor of Mitte. “If you want to do it with me, then so do I,” she concluded.
Before that, she appealed to the members. It is the most heterogeneous district association of the Greens. Nevertheless, care should be taken that no wing tries to push the other out. “I believe that this society still needs this party with all its currents and wings,” said Remlinger.