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Germans want more direct democracy

The Local · 13 Jun 2011, 14:18

Published: 13 Jun 2011 14:18 GMT+02:00

The survey, published Monday by the Bertelsmann foundation, found that 78 percent of Germans would like more referendums, even though only 10 percent have actually voted in one.

Some 68 percent of Germans also said they want more say in important infrastructure projects. This finding probably reflects last year's bitter stand-off between the state government of Baden-Württemberg and a mass public campaign over the Stuttgart 21 railway conversion project.

The survey also found a lot of interest in "citizen's budgets," where some local councils allow people to vote directly on how part of the municipality budget should be spent. Nearly half of those asked (47 percent) said they had taken part in such a decision in the past, or would like to.

There was significantly less interest in more conventional forms of political participation. Nearly 70 percent of Germans said they would never consider joining a political party or even a political campaign. More than half of Germans (53 percent) also never join political demonstrations.

Of the five major local elections held so far in 2011, both Hamburg and Bremen recorded their lowest turnouts ever, while the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt recorded their second lowest.

The exception was Baden-Württemberg, where a groundswell of environmental concern over Stuttgart 21 and nuclear power brought the state its first Green state premier.

Story continues below…

DAPD/The Locall/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

15:02 June 13, 2011 by twisted
God, don't you just hate it when the public wants more say in their government. How can we trust the public to make the right decisions? Choosing their own leaders....horrors. Everyone knows to be a successful politician you have money, the right family, the right education and the right connects. Politics is not for the man in the street.
15:40 June 13, 2011 by catjones
California Dreamin'. Referendums can express the tyranny of the majority.
16:31 June 13, 2011 by derExDeutsche
Direct Democracy ... aka - 2 Wolves and a Sheep voting on what's for dinner.

the 'direct democracy' will vote to have the Govt. take control of and redistribute wealth . Essentially, this is Kristallnacht for Rich People and Private Enterprise.
16:45 June 13, 2011 by auniquecorn
Twisted, you took the words right out of my thoughts.
18:39 June 13, 2011 by Gretl
@catjones - I thought that the rights of society trumped rights of the individual in Germany, so status quo.
18:48 June 13, 2011 by MJMH
Just think a referendum might actually do away with the bail out for Greece, The Euro, the EU and open immigration. We can't have that now can we. Germany must be politically correct under ever circumstance.
20:06 June 13, 2011 by catjones
It's always a popular notion that the people can better govern themselves, but if you look at California you see that the complexities of running a state, much less a country, requires more than a populist vote. Show me a successful referendum-run government and I'll show you the imaginings of a disgruntled voter.

Like it or not, governments are the largest man-made structures in the world and to apply simple knee-jerk solutions shows an ignorance of that fact.

@MJMH.....comments like yours always have the quick fix for today's problem but fail to address the inevitable results.
20:07 June 13, 2011 by Kayak
When I think of the word "democracy" Germany isn't the first country that pops into my head! It's the same for most Germans I guess.
20:20 June 13, 2011 by DOZ
See what the EU has done. Soon not much left of the Deutsch World. Wonder when the Sweepstakes will take place to replace the Countries name to "We Finally Wiped You Out Land" or "LaytonLand".
21:14 June 13, 2011 by whpmgr
CATJONES: The problem in Calif is not letting the people vote. The people voted against giving illegal immigrants any free stuff, voted to make english the official language, voted to eliminate free schooling and college for illegal aliens. THey voted to make Marriage between a mana nd a woman, they voted to lower taxes. They voted to keep certain other Liberal give-aways from happening. The politicians voted against the people, and have done what they could to take away california's status as one of the top economies in teh world. They under cut and moved in weveryway to legitimize the illegal alien. The courts then come in and made teh majority vote worthless by making many decisions that are certainly questionable and almost legislating from the bench.

The people of Claifornia have consistently voted for things that would save the state. The politicians (through representative means) have over-ridden the voters.

Representative democracy only works whent he politicians do what he people want. NOw a days, companies and special interests buy the politicians and get through the process what they want to go through despite what the people want.

Corruption of a few embassy workers is bad, but if you look deeper in each country, you will find that it is much worse in the areas where people make law, pass judgement and are not held accountable for their actions. There need to be term limits and other checks and balances instituted, but who will implement them and how can we really trust them?

My thoughts wander to So Cal Education: teh Los Angeles school district. It is so large, it has swallowed so many smaller ones, that they are so big now, they can do whatever they want and are not accountable to even teh mayor. When a land is so big, and is ruled from far away, the people lose the ability to control their government. It is more complex, and difficult to say much more, but we are in a downward spiral and only those pure of heart should make laws, find them, and then you wills ee they dont want anything to do with law since it doesnt pay, and it is embarrassing when people find out that they rulers are human and have made mistakes too.
22:47 June 13, 2011 by nemo999
I would like to be one of the Wolves.
01:30 June 14, 2011 by whpmgr
wow, as I read my own comment I see I must have been on drugs. I guess what I want to say is that the best people for the jobs, inherantly dont want them since they get too much scrutiny, are harrassed if they are not siding with teh media and the people who wish to subjigate us all to their whims. We can't get the right people into politics since it doesnt pay enough, the media will go after them and their family, and any small blemish will be made into a huge ordeal once the media finds something. Also, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Who is without sin? So the government is in a city far away from most of its people, and unreachable. They are safe in their buildings, protected-especially in Europe, from even being critically attacked, and are not held responsible. You take teh ex minister of Defense who just plageurized, but was doing a great job, and he is turned into a media bad guy and sent packing. Granted -it is bad to take someone else's work and claim it as your own, but wasn't he doing a great job as the defense minister? Wasn't he in line for maybe even the chancelory? should a whole land flounder for that one error that had nothing to do with how he did his job?

We want people of category, we want saints. We want the perfect person, and then fault them when they turn out to be like any other schmuck. Liars and cheats. If the perfect person to lead the world out of its current economic condition was also a tax cheat, and lied about sex with goats, would we not listen to them since they were goat Fornicators and tax cheats? The answer is that we would not follow them, but we would miss out.

How do we know? We set high, impossible standards, don't hold the current liberal politicians to the standard, but force all Conservative pols to meet the standard. Why is that?
06:53 June 14, 2011 by harcourt
I'm always dubious of comments over lets say 120 words. If you can't put your point over in less - forget it. People probably won't read it in any case.!!!
08:23 June 14, 2011 by Kayak
I agree with harcourt. Whpmgr, you need your own blog. If you already have your own blog, then go to it.

Back to democracy in Germany; it's possible to have party-based democratic system AND direct referenda; for example, Australia.

Are referenda not allowed in Germany's Basic Law?

(Don't be tempted whpmgr - twice is good...!)
09:35 June 14, 2011 by MfromUSA
@whpmgr: you must be on drugs now too, while writing this second response. I think you must be living in an alien universe.
13:17 June 14, 2011 by LiberalGuy
The problem with referendums is that politicians can still can the results they want by loading the questions. ie the last Rupublican referendum in Australia. Pols will always find a way to get what they want
13:43 June 14, 2011 by qoheleth04
Re Catjones: If politicians did only what the people want, you would not need representative democracy. You could make all decisions by referenda. In a representative democracy, you vote for a representative because you respect his judgment, even when he disagrees with you. If 90% of the people in California believe that black people should be sent to concentration camps, should the legislature approve a measure to that effect? As Edmund Burke said, "Your representative owed you not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion."
19:33 June 14, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
"We want people of category, we want saints"

@whpmgr- yes, and when they turn out to be human we throw them to the wolves. The problem is that this behavior only produces better liars who can pretend even more effectively that they are the perfect person, the best family-man, God-fearing politician, ect. It is so easy for people to judege those in power because we don't know what their job entails. In fact, it is very complex and difficult, and we as a society don't give them enough credit.

Take your comment about the defence minister: he was doing his job as best as anyone could, but he was brought down by a bunch of cynics who felt it their responsiblity to judge another person for being human and making mistakes (as if THEY could do his job better!) Those people who exposed him should have to come up with a replacement for him, since apparently the critics know best. And most voters are just as cynical as they are, so why would a direct democracy be more effective? There wouldn't be a filter from making dumb decisions. One could put anything on a ballot and get is passed then.
00:24 June 15, 2011 by whpmgr
Kerouac: Well said. Thank you.

MfromUSA: My alien universe is Los Angeles, it is an Illegal Alien universe, wher emy own language was voted in but a court over-ruled the use of it as an official language. Any idiot that uses the slavery / concentration camp argument to make a point is just that. Common sense (whatever the &^%$ that is) is a good basis for decision making. So, whatever part of the USA you are from, cool but, I hold that my argument is not so far off the mark.

It takes a strong person with mad skills and integrity to be a great leader. If people think those in congress and the senate, or the Bundestag are great people of integrity and promise are sadly mistaken for the most part. The good ones are few and far between.

But, even an idiot, as myself, who writes over 120 words, and does get read completely, as I have seen in soem of the comments above, would know that you would not allow all Black people in California to be sent to a concentration camp, but you might consider sending the illegal aliens there...just kidding.
17:09 June 15, 2011 by Beachrider
As for California. It is the poster-child for direct voting. They have 500 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. It is just a legal nightmare. There is NO legal architecture to such an approach. They took a probably-good thing and went further than anyone else with it.

Don't follow the lead from California. It is a horrible legal snare of contradictory laws.
02:01 June 16, 2011 by tj33
"Just think a referendum might actually do away with the bail out for Greece, The Euro, the EU and open immigration."

Possibly, and they would have to suffer the consequences. Or maybe people will actually talk about this and realize why making these sacrifices is important and in Germany's long term interest.

Either way, I think it's better for people to choose to screw themselves than for the government to protect them against their will, because government that sometimes does the right thing sooner or later will start doing the wrong thing.
03:03 June 16, 2011 by mike_1983
It annoys me how the politicians are so against direct democracy!

Without it they can say one thing before an election and do another after it without any consequences!

Switzerland by far has the best democracy in the world where people can implement change without the consent of politicians who often have hiddern agendas!

kayak - Ausutralia is not a good example of a system of both, Australia very rarely goes to a referendum and when they do 90% of the time they get voted down. In australia unlike switzerland the public cannot put forward referenda, it must be a government inniciative.
18:02 June 17, 2011 by Igor Alexander
"It's always a popular notion that the people can better govern themselves, but if you look at California you see that the complexities of running a state, much less a country, requires more than a populist vote."

I wasn't aware that they practiced "direct democracy" in California. Thought it was just the usual party politics.

To the extent that they hold referendums in California, it seems that the results are usually either ignored by the politicians, or overturned by the courts. I seem to recall Californians voting to put an end to illegal aliens receiving social services, but that demand was soundly ignored by the ruling elite.

Maybe California could use a little more "direct democracy," since the only thing the politicos seem to be doing well is running the state into the ground, lining their pockets in the process.

"Show me a successful referendum-run government and I'll show you the imaginings of a disgruntled voter."

They hold a lot of referendums in Switzerland.

"When I think of the word "democracy" Germany isn't the first country that pops into my head!"

Why is that?
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