Referendum Fails To Attract Enough Voters
Supporters of Berlin's Tempelhof Airport say they won't give up
fighting to preserve the historic field, even after a weekend
referendum fell short of requiring the government to reconsider its
decision to close the airport.
Over 530,000 people cast ballots in the referendum, reports The
Associated Press, and of those voters a decided majority wanted to
keep Tempelhof open. Despite what sounds like a relatively strong
turnout, however, that number represented just 21.7 percent of the
city's 2.4 million eligible voters; for the results to be binding,
at least 25 percent of voters needed to cast ballots.
On Monday, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit -- who opposes efforts to
keep Tempelhof open -- called the referendum a success, and urged
Tempelhof voters to "respect the majority" of residents who either
didn't support the airport, or who stayed away from the polls
entirely (a rarely-heard political endorsement for voter apathy
As ANN reported, Wowereit
wants to close Tempelhof and shift air traffic to a new
international airport at the edge of Berlin. Supporters counter the
airport has historical significance -- Tempelhof was the staging
base for Allied operations during the 1948 Berlin Airlift -- and
today provide necessary travel alternatives for residents.
Tempelhof is a short distance from downtown Berlin.
In a message on its website, the Society for the Protection of
City Airport Tempelhof reiterated calls for federal and local
lawmakers to meet with airline representatives and Berlin
residents, to end what it termed a "political standoff."
Local politician Friedbert Pflueger, leader of the conservative
Christian Democrats in Berlin, criticized Wowereit's resolve to
close Tempelhof, and the lack of a plan to redevelop the field
while preserving its historic, Third Reich-era horseshoe
"He has up to today provided no concept for an alternative use"
of the airfield, Pflueger said.
Those who want Tempelhof closed say the airport's time has
passed... and while the airport was needed in the time Berlin was
split in two, today there's little need for a downtown airport.