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German EU vote ruling boosts fringe parties' hopes

German EU vote ruling boosts fringe parties' hopes
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A new ruling by Germany’s top court could make it easier for the country’s smaller political parties to win seats in May’s European elections.

The Constitutional Court has scrapped a rule whereby parties need at least three percent of the vote to be represented in the European Parliament.

The government lowered the barrier from five percent last year, but five of the court’s eight judges agreed it should be abolished altogether.

Those who might benefit include fringe anti-establishment parties and the far-right NPD.

Lawyers for the European Parliament and the German Bundestag had argued that the threshold was needed in order for the chamber – which sits in both Brussels and Strasbourg – to function properly.

But it’s argued that unlike in national elections – where in Germany a five percent barrier applies – the European Parliament does not elect a government, and all voters’ views should count.

The court agreed that the threshold infringed the right of parties to equal opportunities.

Germany will elect 96 lawmakers to the European Parliament, the largest national contingent. Without the hurdle, a score of one percent of the vote will be enough to secure a party a seat under Germany’s proportional representation system.

National voting systems for the European Parliament differ across the 28 member states. Most countries, including Britain, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, have no threshold.

Eight nations have a five percent threshold – the maximum allowed under EU law – including the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.