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Referendum on energy in Berlin victim of approval quorum

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The campaign poster of the citizens' intiative in Berlin

Referendum on energy in Berlin victim of approval quorum


On Sunday, 3 November 2013, Berlin’s eligible citizens had the chance to decide by referendum on making Berlin’s power grid again a public good. However, the vote was invalid as it did not reach the required approval quorum of 25 per cent. In absolute numbers the referendum failed.

Overall, 595,565 citizens (24,1 per cent of all eligible Berliners) had voted in favour, while 121,111 people had voted against giving back the electricity grid to Berlin’s citizens. If 21,374 more citizens had turned out and voted yes, the referendum would have been valid.

The referendum was the second step of a citizens’ initiative. In June 2013, about 50 local groups united under the umbrella “Energietisch” (“energy table”) had collected the necessary amount of 173,000 signatures to demand from Berlin’s government, the Senate, to hold the referendum. Activists subsequently demanded to schedule the vote on the same day the general elections were held in Germany in order to easily meet the requirements of the approval quorum. However, instead of 22 September the Berlin Senate chose a different date, yesterday’s third November.

“The case of Berlin is ironic: Here politicians, who are elected without any quora of approval, determine the success of a democratic decision citizens very hard had worked for. The case of Switzerland is completely different. Here direct democracy is successfully practiced without any quora of approval”, states Erwin Mayer, board member of Democracy International.

Democracy International demands the abolition of the approval quorum and to make referendums coincide with elections. Aiming at realising these objectives, Democracy International’s German partner organisation Mehr Demokratie has initiated a call that can be signed at  


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