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Electoral threshold plan to oust German small party MEPs

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

The negotiators of the largest political groups in the European Parliament agreed Wednesday night on a deal to reform the European election law. German-led EPP achieved agreement to the introduction of a 3.5% threshold for European elections in Germany in order to bypass several rulings of the Federal Constitutional Court invalidating national thresholds. On the basis of the latest election results, the threshold could prevent six small German parties from being represented and hand over their 9 seats to large parties. This would prevent for example the anti-establishment German Pirate Party and the satirical political party Die PARTEI (led by MEP Martin Sonneborn) from being reelected in 2024. As a result EPP could expect to grow by 3 German MEPs while Greens/EFA stands to lose 2.

In exchange for agreement to the threshold EPP agreed to demands by S&D, Renew and Greens/EFA to introduce transnational lists and a gender parity requirement for electoral lists to European elections. The formal vote on the deal in the European Parliament is yet to take place. The EU governments will then have the final say, having to reach an agreement in the Council and needing the consent of all national parliaments.

German Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer condemns the deal:

“This threshold is an attack on democracy. With the envisaged threshold of 3.5%, 3.1 million votes cast for six small parties in Germany would have been invalidated in the most recent European elections. This exceeds the total votes cast in the smallest 6 EU Member States! The small parties‘ parliamentary seats would fall into the hands of the political establishment which voters intended to oppose.

Leaving millions of citizens who are disillusioned with the established parties no other choice will either drive them into the arms of authoritarian nationalists or make them turn their backs on democracy altogether. Both will damage our democracy and endanger the future of Europe. Europe needs to be more inclusive, not less. “

While the German Constitutional Court annulled thresholds for elections to the European Parliament so far, there is a theoretical threshold of about 200,000 votes needed to win a seat. A 3.5% threshold would require a German party to win more than a million votes in order to be represented in the European Parliament.