Sicherung kommunaler Bürgerbegehren Verwaltungsprozessuale Strategien zur Auflösung des Spannungsverhältnisses zwischen repräsentativer und plebiszitärer Demokratie auf kommunaler Ebene
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Citizens exercise their right of democratic participation at municipal level not only through elections but also through referendums. However, when citizens decide to initiate a referendum, the elected local government does not lose the power to deal with the relevant issue itself. As a consequence, a referendum – which regularly aims at pushing through a certain political agenda against the will of the elected institutions – always runs the risk of being thwarted by an opposing decision of these institutions. To counter this risk, the administrative courts have developed procedural means to shield an ongoing referendum from actions by the elected institutions, even where the laws of local government do not feature rules to that effect. In doing so, the courts have autonomously altered the balance between plebiscitary and representative democracy, thereby exceeding their judicial power. From a broader perspective this conflict points to a more general development: The commonly shared feeling that representative democracy finds itself in a state of crisis has given rise to a more plural system of democratic legitimation. In that system established structures of representative decision-making are supplemented or even replaced by alternative instruments of democratic inclusion. Referendums at municipal level are just one of many such instruments which, generally speaking, expand democracy beyond its classical parliamentary form. This expansion of democratic legitimation necessarily leads to frictions where various forms of democratic decision-making are confronted with the same social problem. Against this background, there is a need for »rules of conflict«. Focusing on democratic conflicts at municipal level, the article shows how such rules can be deduced from the relevant statutes and how the courts should deal with them.