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Germany

German court scraps 3 percent EU Parliament election threshold

Germany’s top court has abolished a rule that said political parties need at least 3 percent of the vote to enter the EU Parliament. The court has said the hurdle infringed on parties’ rights to equal opportunities.

The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe on Wednesday ruled that the current 3 percent threshold required to secure seats in the European Parliament is unconstitutional, abolishing the hurdle altogether.

Last year German lawmakers lowered the threshold from 5 to 3 percent after it was challenged by smaller parties who called the requirement unfair and said that it put off potential supporters.

There is a 5 percent threshold for elections to Germany's parliament, the Bundestag. The body has said the clause is necessary to avoid political fragmentation in parliament of the kind that helped bring down the Weimar Republic when a wide range of parties failed to prevent Adolf Hitler coming to power.

The decision now opens the door to smaller and fringe parties winning seats in the May 25 poll that will see 96 German lawmakers elected - the largest national contingent.

Polls have suggested fringe groups would poll well in many countries in the upcoming elections.

These parties include the Euroskeptic Alternative for Germany (AfD), the anti-establishment Pirate Party, Free Voters and the Ecological Democratic Party.

The decision could also see the country's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) winning seats in May.

National voting systems for the EU Parliament differ across the 28 member states with most - including Britain, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands - having no threshold at all.

The maximum threshold allowed under EU law is 5 percent, which eight nations have, including the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.

hc/dr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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