Jogger in Hamburg

Who’s allowed to vote in Hamburg’s upcoming Olympic referendum?

I was doing a bit of research for the latest episode of the “Why Hamburg?” podcast and wondered whether the referendum on 29th November regarding Hamburg’s Olympic bid would be open to everyone. And by everyone, I mean people like us – many of whom don’t have German citizenship.

There are plenty of (German-language) articles about the referendum, but it was quite difficult to find anything regarding who is allowed to vote and, specifically, whether non-German citizens are included.

The short answer: unless you have German citizenship, no you aren’t

You got it: you can be as Feuer und Flamme as you like – either for or against – but you won’t be able to have a say as to whether your money should be spent on the Olympics. It is stated quite clearly in the PDF announcement on the Hamburg website. Unless you’re German, not a sniff. To add insult to injury, the announcement is dated 2nd October, my birthday!


Why would our adoptive home city treat us like this? Well the reason is that the voting procedure that applies to the Bürgerschaftswahlen also applies to the newly introduced referendum. I suppose it is logical that only the same electorate that puts the decision-makers in power can overrule them.

In most cities, EU citizens are allowed to vote in city level elections, but not Bundesland, i.e. federal state, level – and of course general elections are taboo too. In places where the city and state administration are one and the same, EU citizens are deprived of any influence at city level whatsoever. And that is the case in Hamburg. So because the electoral law for the city/state legislature applies, we are excluded.

It’s still a scandal though

I can understand that we are not allowed to vote in general elections without being German citizens. But it is very disappointing that, for such an international event with all the supposed promise of internationalising Hamburg further, it is precisely international Hamburgians who are not allowed to have our say.

This is clearly an issue that affects us and our city – if it were a national issue, then all Germans wherever they are in the world should be asked.

The referendum as an instrument was only introduced in June and as such, it was clearly specifically brought about with the Olympic referendum in mind. So while they were changing the constitution, they could easily have made it possible for international people (not just EU citizens in my view) to take part.

I think those of us who are now aggrieved by this missed a trick – and perhaps it shows that we should have our ear more to the ground in future to pick up political issues that are relevant to the international community before it’s too late.

One thought on “Who’s allowed to vote in Hamburg’s upcoming Olympic referendum?”

  1. The Olympic games are just a way to justify wasting tons of taxpayer money on unneeded infastructure. If Hamburg wants to spend money on infastructure they can maintain or fix the stuff they already got.

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