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Czech court ruling on electoral law to help small parties

FILE-In this Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020 file photo, an election committee member, wearing a protective suit, holds a ballot box for a woman to vote in regional and senate elections at a drive-in polling station in Prague, Czech Republic. On Wednesday Feb. 3, 2021, the Czech Republic's highest court ruled to cancel several provisions of the country's electoral law as discriminatory for small parties. The Constitutional Court dismissed those rules which it said gave big parties disproportionately high numbers of parliamentary seats after elections, saying it's not in line with the proportional representation electoral system used in elections for the lower house of Parliament. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek/File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PRAGUE – The Czech Republic’s highest court ruled Wednesday to cancel several provisions of the country’s electoral law as discriminatory for small parties.

The Constitutional Court dismissed those rules which it said gave big parties disproportionately high numbers of parliamentary seats after elections, saying it's not in line with the proportional representation electoral system used in elections for the lower house of Parliament.

The court has also canceled parts of the law under which parties join forces to run as coalitions. To gain parliamentary seats, any party needs to reach a 5% threshold of the popular vote. So far, two-party coalitions needed to win 10%, three parties needed 15% and so on. The ruling also sets the 5% threshold for any coalition.

The changes were approved at the request of a group of 21 lawmakers in Parliament’s upper house, the Senate.

Wednesday’s ruling came about eight months before the Oct. 8-9 general election. Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said he respected the ruling and invited the representatives of parliamentary parties to discuss the possible options they have.

Both chambers of Parliament need to agree on necessary changes to amend the electoral law in line with the court’s verdict.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said he had to accept the verdict but charged that the court “is trying to influence the political situation in our country." and accused the court's chief judge Pave Rychetsky of being biased.

Babis still said that his centrist ANO movement that won big the previous 2017 elections will work with other political parties to reach an agreement on the issue.