The Czech Republic’s 5 percent barrier for EP elections may be lifted

Elections for the European Parliament have a 5 percent threshold in the Cyech Republic, which means minority parties often end up with no representation at all. Photo: Wikipedia.
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Supreme Administrative Court asks Constitutional Court to review threshold

Brno, June 24 (ČTK) — The Czech Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) will propose to the Constitutional Court (ÚS) that it cancel the 5 percent threshold in the elections to the European Parliament that are in place in the Czech Republic, judge rapporteur Tomáš Langášek told journalists today.

The court panel has complied with the complaint lodged by the Greens. The Czech Pirate Party argued similarly in its complaint.

The NSS will suspend both proceedings, awaiting the verdict by the ÚS.

In the May EP elections, both parties ended close below the 5 percent threshold with 4.78 percent (Pirates) and 3.77 percent (Greens) of the vote.

The NSS did not comply with any other complaint about the EP elections.

Langášek said the court panel had determined that the disputed clauses of the European elections laws "limit the free competition of political forces in democratic society, the equality of the right to vote of all voters and citizens' right to elected posts."

In addition, the European Parliament plays a less important role in the functioning of the EU than the national parliaments in the functioning of EU member countries, Langášek said.

This is why the limiting clause does not seem to be as necessary as in the elections to the Chamber of Deputies that was approved by the ÚS earlier, he added.

The Greens and the Pirates hailed the NSS's decision.

"We appreciate that the NSS shares our arguments. The EP election results clearly showed that some people's votes weighed more than the votes of others. For the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), 50,000 votes were enough to gain a seat in the EP. For the Greens, however, not even 57,000 votes were enough, and for the Pirates not even 72,000 votes," said Jana Drápalová, the Greens' acting chairwoman.

Jakub Michálek, from the Pirate Party, said in his view the NSS's proposal has a chance to succeed at the ÚS.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, ČSSD) said he did not support the lifting of the barrier.

"The 5 percent barrier helps create and integrate the main streams of views," Sobotka said. “It prevents fragmentation and inability to arrive at consensus.”

Pavel Bělobrádek, deputy PM for the KDU-ČSL, also said the 5 percent threshold is meaningful.

Politicians in Germany, where the threshold was scrapped, do not recommend such an action. It makes it easier for extremists to enter the European Parliament, Bělobrádek said.

Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), for his part, said he could not see any problem in lifting the barrier.

On the other hand, Babiš would double the current 5 percent threshold for parties' entry into the Czech Chamber of Deputies, he said.

Of the rightist opposition leaders, TOP 09 deputy head Miroslav Kalousek said he does not support the NSS's proposal, but he would respect the ÚS's decision.

Such decisions are up to the lawmakers, not the courts, said Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala.

If the 5 percent clause did not exist, the "natural threshold" would constitute a barrier for the entry to the EU. It depends on the election system, the number of the running parties and voter turnout.

In the latest elections, it was about 3.5 percent, which means that the Pirates and the Greens would have gained a mandate at the expense of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS).

 
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