German neo-Nazis could enter EU parliament after court ruling
A myriad small German parties, including the neo-Nazi NPD, could enter the European Parliament following a ruling by the Constitutional Court on Wednesday (26 February) to abolish the minimum threshold for the vote.
The verdict, approved with 5 out of the 8 votes in the judging panel, says fringe parties are being discriminated against with the current three-percent threshold.
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The Karlsruhe-based court already in 2011 ruled that a five-percent threshold in place for the 2009 EU elections was unconstitutional.
Following that ruling, Germany’s parliament lowered the threshold to three percent, arguing that smaller parties could hamper the work of the European Parliament.
The law was challenged again – this time by a coalition of 19 fringe parties, including the neo-Nazi NPD and the German Pirate Party.
The judges agreed with the plaintiffs.
"One also cannot simply assume that the traditional practice of flexible forming of majorities in Parliament would be significantly complicated by the election of new parliamentarians from smaller parties," the verdict reads.
The judges argue that the two major parties - the centre-right EPP and the Social Democrats - could form a voting alliance, so that small parties will not be able to hamper the workings of the EU legislature.
And since the composition of the European Parliament is divided per country, with Germany filling 96 out of the available 751 seats in the new legislature, a de facto threshold of about one percent exists for a party to actually get an MEP, the judges noted.
The NPD welcomed the verdict and said it would focus all its "strength" on the EU elections campaign.
European Parliament chief Martin Schulz, himself a German politician and lead candidate of the Social Democrats, tweeted that he "respects" the verdict, but "would have wished for something else."
"We must mobilise now and prevent the entry of extremist parties in the EP," he added.
But not all fringe parties are "extremist."
The Pirate Party promotes internet freedom; there is also an animal rights party and a "Grey Panthers" party defending the rights of retired people.
Satirist Martin Sonneborn, head of "The Party" which received 0.6 percent in the general elections last year, says he sees a "pretty good chance" of himself becoming an MEP.
According to the latest Politbarometer published last week, only 27 percent of Germans are interested in the EU elections and 53 percent say they do not have enough information about the European Union.
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union is polling at 40 percent, the Social Democrats at 24 pecent, the Green Party at 12 percent and the leftist Linke at eight.
German Liberals, who last year missed the five-percent threshold and were kicked out of the Bundestag, would get four percent of the vote, while the newcomer anti-euro party Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) is polling at six percent. All other fringe parties summed up together make up six percent of voters' intentions, meaning a maximum of six MEPs.
The court decision makes Germany the 14th EU country out of the 28 member states not to have a minimum threshold for the EU elections.