German mayor forced out over Love Parade disaster

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 12, 2012 3:39 PM

DUISBURG, Germany (Reuters) - The conservative mayor of the German town of Duisburg was voted out of office on Sunday after he had rejected calls to step down over the 2010 Love Parade festival in which 21 people were killed and 500 hurt in a stampede at an entrance gate.

Adolf Sauerland, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, lost his bid to stay in office until the end of his term in 2015 when about 130,000 people voted against him with only 21,500 backing him in the extraordinary ballot.

That was more than the minimum 92,000 votes needed to vote him out of office, officials said.

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has created a special law making it possible for towns to vote mayors out of office in special elections provided enough sign a petition demanding such a recall vote.

The recall was organized by union groups and supported by the opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left party. They said Sauerland made mistakes planning the Love Parade. Sauerland rejected the charges he was responsible for the mistakes.

Eight foreigners - from Spain, Bosnia, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy and China - were among those killed when young people pushed through an underpass into the techno festival grounds at a former freight rail yard.

State prosecutors have been investigating why an event set up for 250,000 people ended up with between 500,000 and 1 million attending.

Sauerland, 56, had refused to resign despite criticism of his management of the event and the aftermath of the July 24, 2010, disaster even though party allies urged him to resign. He was the subject of scorn and was once pelted by ketchup at one public appearance.

(Reporting By Tom Kaeckenhoff, Anneli Palmen; writing by Erik Kirschbaum)