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Tying tissues for better direct democracy

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Activists in front of the parliament of Northrhine-Westphalia

Tying tissues for better direct democracy


On 1 September 2014, activists of Mehr Demokratie and Democracy International hang up 5000 tissues with the colours of the political parties in power in North-Rhine-Westfalia, Germany's most populated state. The aim was to remind the parliamentarians of their electoral promises to lower the barriers to direct democracy in Northrhine-Wesphalia. In the afternoon, direct democracy and citizen participation were a matter of discussion in the constitutional committee.

Mehr Demokratie, member organisation of Democracy International, demands to lower the barriers of collecting signatures for a citizens' initiative in Northrine-Westphalia, which counts almost 18 million citizens. Currently, 1,1 million citizens of Northrhine-Westphalia need to sign an initiative within the period of one year in order to trigger a referendum. This equals 3000 signatures per day. Due to these high barriers, never there had been a referendum since Northrhine-Westphalia was founded as a federal state in 1950.

Nicola Quartz and Kamo Gabrielyan of Mehr Demokratie / Democracy International
Nicola Quartz and Kamo Gabrielyan

Further, Mehr Demokratie demands to give citizens the right to have a direct say on tax issues similar to the practice in Switzerland and the United States. Empirical survey on these countries reveal that the budget is spent more economically when citizens participate in budgetary decisions.

Nimet Karavelioglu, intern with Democracy International
Our intern Nimet Karavelioglu

The thorough exchange of opinions at the constitutional committee in the afternoon made obvious that the activists still have some way to go to realise citizen-friendly direct democracy. This is because the session of the constitutional committee did not yield any concrete commitments despite of the electoral promises once made.

More Information:

- Website of Mehr Demokratie in Northrhine-Westphalia (in German)

Text and photos by Cora Pfafferott


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