Germany’s capital Berlin is set to get its first woman mayor in Franziska Giffey, provisional results for the regional elections showed Monday. The 43-year-old is a leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the primary opposition to outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
She served as the Minister for Family Affairs on Merkel’s government between 2018 and 2021.
Giffey succeeds her party’s Michael Mueller on the seat of mayor in Berlin, after the latter decided against running this time. After 16 whole years, SDP has a mandate to form a government in Germany following a projected (narrow) win in the national election.
This marks the end of the rule of Merkel, Germany’s first woman and ‘eternal Chancellor’, and her liberal-conservative party.
Franziska Giffey: A Voice For Equality
A graduate of the Humboldt University of Berlin, Giffey has occupied several administrative roles over the years, at both local and national levels. She has worked as a Berlin representative to the European Union and as the Commissioner for European Affairs in the state’s boroughs. She joined SPD in 2007.
As a minister on Merkel’s cabinet, Giffey put forward pioneering propositions for gender equality in the boardrooms, calling for greater female representation in leadership and a cut down of the pay gap.
She took lead last year behind Germany’s legislation for making it compulsory for companies to have at least one woman on their board. As per Reuters, Giffey hailed the moment as a “historic breakthrough.”
The plagiarism controversy
In 2010, Giffey completed her doctorate dissertation, over which nine years later, trouble brewed. Allegations of plagiariasm arose in 2019 around Giffey’s work and the Free University of Berlin launched a review. In June this year, as reported by DW, she was stripped of her doctorate after a unanimous vote by the university’s presidium.
It was observed there was “deception over the independence of her scientific achievement” and that Giffey did not adequately credit authors of references used in her work. The controversy prompted Giffey to step down as family affairs minister in May this year.
Merkel, who has previously been appreciative of Giffey’s skill in the field, said post her resignation, “I worked very well and trustingly with Franziska Giffey over the past few years, and I thank her sincerely for this.”