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 November 2012, the European Parliament adopted a resolution inter alia calling on MS to establish electoral thresholds, to ensure Parliament is able to function effectively.
In Germany, in 2013 the threshold applicable to European elections was reduced 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 3% threshold was also challenged before the German Constitutional Court. It has now declared this unconstitutional too so that no electoral threshold will apply to the 2014 European elections in Germany. The Court refused the argument that the political link between Parliament and Commission to be established with the election of the Commission President after the European election will result in stronger government-parliament dynamics and in a competition between government and opposition parties. It pointed in this regard to the uncertainty of the agreement to be achieved with the Member States.
Calls have been voiced to establish a ‘European’ electoral threshold, taking into account the participation of different national parties within European political groups, to avoid further fragmentation of Parliament.
This briefing updates the version published in July 2013, to take account of the February 2014 judgment of the Constitutional Court.