Berlin governing party chooses new mayor

AP News
Posted: Oct 18, 2014 10:47 AM
Berlin governing party chooses new mayor

BERLIN (AP) — Berlin's city development minister has been chosen by his party to be the capital's new mayor, signaling a change of style after the charismatic and long-serving incumbent announced his resignation.

Michael Mueller won 59.1 percent support in a ballot of thousands of members, the center-left Social Democrats said Saturday. The party leads Berlin's governing coalition.

The unexpectedly clear result means he won't face a runoff against either of his rivals: local party chairman Jan Stoess, who polled 20.9 percent, and Palestinian-born caucus leader Raed Saleh, with 18.6 percent.

Mayor Klaus Wowereit plans to step down Dec. 11 after more than 13 years in power, nearly two years before his term expires.

Wowereit presided over the emergence of the city, which he dubbed "poor but sexy," as an increasingly popular tourist destination and a dynamic center for high-tech startups. However, his popularity suffered badly over the past two years from persistent and continuing delays in opening Berlin's new airport.

Mueller, 49, has been Berlin's development and environment minister since 2011. He has a down-to-earth, unglamorous image and pledges "solid government," pointing to years of experience in administrative and party jobs.

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The Berlin state parliament will elect Wowereit's successor. Since the Social Democrats' coalition with the conservative Christian Democrats has a majority there, Mueller is all but guaranteed the job.

He will then have the task of shoring up his party's support before a state election expected in late 2016. Berlin's status as one of federalized Germany's 16 states gives it weight on the national political stage.