The Free Voters want to file a lawsuit against the Senate campaign on the Bremen racecourse referendum. The BI and the FDP are also calling for a stop.
Fair chances in the racecourse referendum? Photo: dpa
The citizens’ initiative Rennbahngelande (BI) will not sue against the controversial campaign of the Red-Green Senate on the referendum. "That is not the right way," BI spokesman Andreas Sponbiel told the taz – "even if we might have chances." Why that could be promising, explained lawyer Axel Adamietz of the Free Voters to the press on Monday. He considers the 250,000 euro expensive advertising campaign illegal and already announced a complaint before the administrative court – and even before the vote on May 26.
Admittedly the national organs have "no strict neutrality obligation" with plebiscites. This is how the Bremen State Court ruled in 1996 – and this is also how the Senate argues. In the case of votes, however, the same ruling states that the government is subject to a "requirement of objectivity or objectivity". This does not require the Senate to "suppress its opinion," the judges wrote. But it must express its conviction "in a manner that respects the freedom of choice of those entitled to vote," the ruling said.
This limit is "exceeded" if official statements are aimed not only at forming opinions, but at the voting process itself. This is the case, for example, when samples of ballots are published that have already been filled out in accordance with the government’s wishes.
And that is precisely the case here, argues Adamietz, who used to sit in parliament for the Bremen Green List and the FDP and ran unsuccessfully for the Bremen and Bremerhaven Voters’ Association in 2011. On the homepage of the referendum campaign, but also on the flyers, for which the Senate Chancellery is also responsible, a ticked ballot box shines out everywhere, with a "No" in capital letters next to it. Is that already the pattern of a ballot?
The State Court has imposed an "objectivity requirement" on the government
The FDP faction also sees the campaign "very critically" and has therefore requested a topical hour in the city parliament for Tuesday. It demands, like also the free voters, to stop the action "good reasons for the racecourse quarter" immediately. And not only because she considers it a "waste of taxpayers’ money" and that equal opportunities have not been preserved.
The FDP also argues with the Federal Constitutional Court: tax money is "entrusted to the Senate for use for the common good," it says in a landmark 1977 decision on the federal government’s public relations work. Therefore, the FDP says, it is out of the question for the Senate to spend tax money "to a considerable extent" "to make its partisan view of the referendum known to the general public." The FDP faction has doubts whether it would be entitled to file a lawsuit.
Money from the "special assets for industrial sites
The money for the campaign comes from the "special assets for industrial sites", as it is called in a submission to the budget committee. The special fund is administered by the Department of Economic Affairs, and 430,000 euros in it are to be used for the development of the Rennbahn district. Almost 20,000 euros have so far been spent on newspaper ads, 8,650 euros on the website, and 30,000 euros on flyer distribution.
Andreas Sponbiel from the citizens’ initiative finds this "indecent" and "unsportsmanlike". But he wants to remain "calm and objective". And he trusts that many Bremen residents have already been "very annoyed" by the campaign.