Electoral thresholds in European elections: Developments in Germany

27-02-2014

The procedure for elections to the European Parliament (EP) features only a limited set of principles common to all Member States (MS). There is no 'harmonisation' of electoral thresholds, but MS may establish thresholds of no more than 5%. In Germany, the new electoral act recently adopted by the Bundestag reduces the threshold applicable to European elections from 5% to 3%. The German Constitutional Court had declared the previous electoral threshold unconstitutional. It argued that the functions of the EP – and in particular the fact that it does not need to sustain an EU government by means of stable majorities – do not justify the restriction of the principles of equal suffrage and of equal opportunities for political parties. This briefing updates the version published in July 2013, to take account of the February 2014 judgment of the Constitutional Court.

The procedure for elections to the European Parliament (EP) features only a limited set of principles common to all Member States (MS). There is no 'harmonisation' of electoral thresholds, but MS may establish thresholds of no more than 5%. In Germany, the new electoral act recently adopted by the Bundestag reduces the threshold applicable to European elections from 5% to 3%. The German Constitutional Court had declared the previous electoral threshold unconstitutional. It argued that the functions of the EP – and in particular the fact that it does not need to sustain an EU government by means of stable majorities – do not justify the restriction of the principles of equal suffrage and of equal opportunities for political parties. This briefing updates the version published in July 2013, to take account of the February 2014 judgment of the Constitutional Court.