The European parliament could become a squabbling ground for “loonies and lobbyists”, observers warned after a German court on Wednesday ruled against a voting threshold at European elections. The president of the federal court, Andreas Vosskuhle, ruled on Wednesday that the 3% entry hurdle violated the constitution and had stopped parties from getting a fair hearing. The ruling will come into effect immediately and apply to the European elections in May, where Germany will elect 96 MEPs for the next parliamentary term – the highest number of seats of all member states. Sixteen out of 29 EU countries, including Britain, have no threshold quotas for European elections, but the issue is an unusually politically loaded one in Germany: a 5% hurdle was introduced for the national parliament in 1949 with a view to making the raucous parliamentary squabbles of the Weimar Republic a thing of the past.
Germany’s proportional system has encouraged the creation of an unusually high number of smaller parties. While the Pirate party, the anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland and the far-right NPD are the three most prominent parties likely to gain from the changes, a number of smaller splinter groups and single-issue parties will be hoping for seats in Strasbourg and Brussels too.
The head of the Pirate party, which is currently represented in the European Parliament via its Swedish branch, said the decision would guarantee that citizens’ votes “wouldn’t again fall under the table”.
The NPD, over whom the upper body of the Germany parliament is currently seeking a ban, called the court’s decision a “phenomenal victory” and confidently announced on its website that its entry into the European parliament was now “not just likely, but a certainty”.