Opponents of a third runway in Munich muster enough votes to stall airport development, for now

Munich's Franz Joseph Strauss Flughafen (Airport)The award winning Munich Airport will need to create a new development strategy after a close vote in a Munich-wide referendum. With roughly 33% voter turnout (enough to make a quorum, under Bavarian law) the preliminary results by the close of polls were 54% having voted against (no) to 45% having voted for (yes) the new runway project. The 'yes' campaign heavily outspent their opponents, and as of now, have nothing to show for it.

The referendum, held Sunday 17th of June, in Munich proper, was the last hurdle for the project going forward. Decisions about the airport's future must be made by the Bund (Germany's Federal Government), the Bavarian Government, and the City of Munich. The Bund and Bavaria, having already decided to back the new runway project, left Munich as the key voter in the decision.

The necessity of the referendum has left the political future of the city's Oberburgermeister (equivalent to Lord Mayor) Christian Ude, of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, in some doubt, as allowing the decision to go through a referendum was a calculated risk with broad support from most of Bavaria's major political parties, except for the pro-environmental Greens. Ude, who backed the project, said on Sunday that the referendum will be the only answer of the City of Munich to the question "without ifs, ands, or buts", and that although he respected the public's decision, it was "a clear setback for development of the airport."

Major political figures in Bavaria from the opposition have already spoken out both against Ude and either for or against the results. Markus Söder of the Bavarian Christian Socialist Union, who could face Ude in statewide elections in 2013, called the results "a clear defeat for Ude, as he couldn't even get a majority in Munich."

In the meantime, while the airport planners go back to the drawing board, those who were against the new runway are celebrating while they await the official results. The leader of the Green faction in the Bavarian Legislature, Magarete Brause, celebrated on Sunday, saying "These results are a nation-wide sign that that the politics of 'faster, higher, farther' belong to yesterday and that today calls for fairness and sustainability."

Although referenda of this sort are only officially binding for a year, in the past the government of Munich has normally stood by the results. An unlikely victory for the CSU in Munich in 2013 could mean that the question would have to be addressed again next year.


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