In the municipal elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, the Greens succeeded for the first time in several mayoral posts. In Bonn, Katja Dörner, member of the Bundestag for the Green Party, won 56.3 percent from the CDU’s previous incumbent Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, who won 43.7 percent. The 44-year-old has been a member of the German Bundestag since 2009 – since 2013 she has been deputy leader of the Greens, with a focus on social issues, children, family and women. Now she is switching to local politics.
Mrs. Dörner, green mayors, have long been the exception in Germany. You won the second round against the incumbent CDU in Bonn on Sunday, while Green candidates were also successful in other cities such as Aachen and Wuppertal. Are you surprised by this success?
I thought I had good chances in Bonn. I have received very positive feedback on my topics and on myself – and a sense of change has occurred in recent days. But then I was surprised it was so clear.
What is your impression of what people expect of you now?
During the election campaign I was often told that there was a lack of leadership in the city. People want to know again in which direction the city is developing. They also expect that some of the projects already decided in Council will finally be addressed. For example, the creation of an urban development company, which is important to create more publicly funded housing in Bonn. That was a topic that the incumbent mayor did not actively address.
Are the local elections also an indication that the Greens are the new big city party?
Above all, the elections have shown that the issues facing us as Greens have reached wider society. The fight against the climate crisis, which must be socially just, the turnaround in transport – these were all topics that interested many people.
What are your specific plans now?
In transport policy, we need to rethink moving away from the car to other modes of transport that do not pollute the climate and do not cause traffic jams. I will immediately set up three wide, protected cycle paths, we don’t have that in Bonn yet, we are completely behind. I am also planning a photovoltaic offensive. And: I want to conclude a pact against child poverty with the social authorities as soon as possible.
What will change for the federal party if there are more green mayors?
Common experiences are very important to the party. I want everything we decide at the federal level to work locally.
You could also have speculated about becoming a government minister or secretary of state after the federal election in 2021. Why did you choose local politics?
Because local politics affects people very directly. Of course, determining the course in the federal government is important. But whether the traffic change succeeds will ultimately be decided on the spot.
In the SPD there is frustration about the successes of the Green and the fact that the Greens, for example in Dortmund, made an election recommendation for the CDU candidate and not for the SPD candidate. Do you understand?
I was supported by the SPD and the left in Bonn and I will treat this trust very carefully beforehand. Otherwise, the individual local associations decide together with the Greens who to support. We are an independent party and not an appendix. We have represented this course for quite some time. In this regard, I cannot understand the frustration of the SPD.