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Votes must not be lost in national and European elections

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Votes must not be lost in national and European elections


In Germany’s most recent federal elections held on Sunday, 22 September 2013, almost seven million votes did not count as they were stopped by the five-percent-barring clause. For Democracy International this dramatic loss of votes is a reason to demand the abolition of thresholds that hinder the undistorted representation of the people be it at local, national or transnational level.

“The amount of almost seven million unrecognised votes in Germany’s federal elections is shocking. This number roughly equals the amount of eligible voters in Sweden and Austria, which are sovereign and independent countries of the EU. As the term representative democracy says, people’s votes must be reflected in the parliament proportionately, otherwise the votes are not equal” warns Gerald Häfner, chairperson of Democracy International. 

The five-percent election threshold has existed in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1953. It foresees that any political party that has acquired at least five per cent of all votes will be represented in the national parliament. At the same time there is an exception: if a political party directly wins three constituencies, the party will be represented in the parliament according to the percentage of votes gained overall. Also, the threshold does not apply to political parties that represent national minorities. In the German national elections held last Sunday, 15.4 per cent of all casted votes were not considered as they were given to parties that did not reach the necessary five per cent. In absolute numbers, this are 6,749,870 votes. 

In Germany there had been several constitutional complaints against the election threshold. Most recently, in November 2011, Germany’s constitutional court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) ruled that the five-percent threshold should not apply to the elections to the European parliament. However, in June 2013 the German parliament passed legislation to introduce a threshold of three per cent in the next European elections, scheduled for May 2014. 

“At EU level we must not repeat the structural deficits of high election thresholds that exist in the EU Member States. It is clear that political parties who are in the parliament prefer to secure their established position. However, it must be much easier for new evolving parties to become a party represented in the parliament. Therefore we must introduce alternative options that allow the representation of every vote. The second-preference-vote – a voter decides on a second party in case the first preference does not count – is one possibility, or simply the lowering of the threshold”, states Gerald Häfner on behalf of Democracy International.  

With the aim of making the European elections in 2014 more democratic, Democracy International demands to hold the European elections in 2014 everywhere in the EU at the same day. Each political party should designate a candidate for the office of the EU Commission President. Also, at national level the parties should openly declare which European party they belong to. Moreover, it should be possible to vote some candidates from other countries via transnational lists.


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