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Direct legislation

Someone os holding a clipboard with a sheet of paper that another person is signing.
© Canva

Provisions for direct legislation introduced in 1996 enable citizens to influence parliamentary decision-making.

Popular initiative

The first step in getting a particular law changed or getting a new one passed is for 10,000 people who are eligible to vote to sign their names in support of the proposal. Initiatives can be set up, for example, to inform the public about the proposal and ask for support. The signatures are then submitted to the Senate which informs the Parliament (Bürgerschaft) about the successful completion of the initiative. The Bürgerschaft may then pass the draft legislation (bill) proposed by the popular initiative, but it does not have to.

Petition for a referendum

If the Bürgerschaft rejects the bill, the Senate goes ahead with a petition for a referendum. The public is informed that all those eligible to vote can add their names to lists in support of the bill. The lists are available at local government offices (Bezirksamt/Ortsamt) and from the organisers of the popular initiative. For the petition to succeed, at least a 20th of all eligible voters must put their names on the list. The Bürgerschaft may now vote to do what the petition demands, but yet again it does not have to.


If the Bürgerschaft votes against, the Senate then asks the electorate to vote on the bill. The Bürgerschaft may propose its own alternative bill. One of the bills is passed if the majority – at least a fifth of all eligible voters – votes in favour of it.

The law governing popular initiatives, petitions for referenda, and referenda.