Bonn Court Rejects All-German Election Rules
West Germany’s highest court on Saturday rejected the current rules for December’s all-German elections, a move likely to split the left-wing vote and further strengthen Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s chances of reelection.
The decision by the Federal Constitutional Court appeared to throw a life preserver to small East German parties, which had played a key role in last fall’s East German revolution but had seemed likely to face extinction in the unified German vote, scheduled for Dec. 2.
Although the ruling by the eight-judge panel requires adoption of a new election law, parliamentary leaders said Saturday that the Dec. 2 balloting need not be postponed. Friedrich Bohl, leader of the ruling Christian Democratic party, said that a new plan will be introduced in Parliament this week, with swift passage expected.
The ruling has no affect on German reunification, scheduled to occur Wednesday under an East-West treaty that went into effect Saturday.
The high court objected to a rule that all parties must poll at least 5% across a united Germany to win any seats in the new all-German Parliament but that parties not competing in the same areas could “piggyback” or join forces to clear the hurdle.
That arrangement was fine for the Social Democratic Party, main rival of Kohl’s Christian Democratic-led coalition. The Social Democrats had hoped to lure voters from the reformed East German Communist Party, now calling themselves the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), who had no real chance of finding an ally big enough to help them over the hurdle.
But the court said that Bonn should apply a separate 5% hurdle for eastern Germany, virtually ensuring that the PDS and the East’s Alliance 90, a grouping of civil rights activists, will be able to enter the new Parliament under their own steam.
With a split left-wing vote, the Social Democrats’ already poor chances of defeating Kohl’s center-right alliance have weakened.
East German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere, a Christian Democrat and close ally of Kohl, welcomed the decision, saying that it supports what he has been advocating all along.
“The constitutional court’s judgment is a resounding slap in the face for the electioneering games of the (Social Democrats) in East and West,” he said in a statement.
Bonn braces for the absorption of the East German army. A32