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3% hurdle to enter European Parliament ruled unconstitutional

Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has ruled the 3% electoral hurdle which German political parties must achieve in order to be able to enter the European Parliament unconstitutional.

3% hurdle to enter European Parliament ruled unconstitutional © Africa Studio - Fotolia.com

3% hurdle to enter European Parliament ruled unconstitutional © Africa Studio – Fotolia.com

Equal opportunity to enter European Parliament

The German constitutional court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) has ruled that the 3% hurdle which political parties must achieve in order to enter the European Parliament violates the principle of equal opportunities and therefore the German constitution (Grundgesetz).

According to the constitutional court, small political parties should have an equal chance of entering the European Parliament, meaning that voters’ votes would also be treated equally. The judges claimed the 3% threshold unjustifiably disadvantaged small parties.

The constitutional challenge was brought by a coalition of 19 small German political parties including the Pirate Party (Piratenpartei) and National Democratic Party (NPD).

The judgment comes after the original 5% threshold was ruled unconstitutional in 2011. After that case, the German parliament lowered the minimum to 3%.

Every vote counts

Chairman of the Pirate Party, Thorsten Wirth, expressed satisfaction at the judgment saying “…the court has guaranteed that unlike five years ago, in the coming European elections a substantial part of the vote will not fall by the wayside.”

Consequences for German parliament

Many are now asking whether the BVerfG’s judgment will have consequences for the 5% threshold that applies to political parties wanting to enter the German parliament.

Looking at the court’s decision, this is highly unlikely.

The judges distinguished between the European Parliament and the German parliament saying that the Bundestag requires a stable majority in order to be able to elect a government which is capable of fulfilling its duties. The threshold that applies to the German government is therefore implicitly justifiable.

European elections

The next European elections are in May 2014. It is may be that case that a number of smaller German parties enter the European parliament.

Christian Solmecke ist Partner der Kanzlei WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE und inbesondere in den Bereichen des IT-, des Medien- und des Internetrechts tätig. Darüber hinaus ist er Autor zahlreicher juristischer Fachveröffentlichungen in diesen Bereichen.

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