The movement “A New Beginning for Duisburg” announced this week it had collected 79,149 signatures, more than 20,000 over the threshold that would begin the recall process. Organizers said they handed over the signatures to the city council on Monday, which will now certify them.
Sauerland has garnered ire because of his conduct in connection with the July 2010 Love Parade tragedy, which left 21 people dead and another 500 injured in the Ruhr Valley city. The revellers became stuck in a narrow tunnel that was the event's only entry and exit. When people panicked, a crowd crush resulted.
Afterward Sauerland said he wasn't responsible for what happened and refused to apologize, despite being involved in the festival's planning process.
This summer he finally said he was sorry, explaining he thought an earlier apology might have opened him to legal action.
He said he assumed full “moral responsibility” for what had taken place.
Reports have since indicated that poor planning was largely responsible for the tragedy and that the Love Parade should never have been approved in the first place. Authorities have also been criminally investigating more than a dozen city officials, police officers and event organizers, but not Sauerland.
Sauerland has consistently refused to resign despite mounting pressure, though Werner Hüsken, one of the petition organizers, said he now expected the mayor to resign.
If he doesn't and a recall election takes place, a simple majority can remove him from office. But irrespective of how many people participate in the election, at least 25 percent of the city's registered voters – or about 92,000 – must vote to recall Sauerland in order to force his removal.