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Screenshot of Wahl-O-Mat poll advice app

German court bans popular voting advice app

A court in the city of Cologne has banned a voting advice app because it allegedly puts leftwing fringe parties at a disadvantage.

Published: May 21, 2019, 8:25 am

    Millions of German voters relied on Wahl-O-Mat, the country’s official voting advice application, but was banned on Monday it was banned by a court in Cologne until the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb) revises its software.

    The court said that Wahl-O-Mat offered advice about up to eight political parties, which was a disadvantage for smaller and more unknown parties. Its display mechanism thus violated the constitutional right to equal opportunities, according to the court.

    A leftwing fringe party Volt Deutschland triggered the legal proceedings. According to the founders, the party is a reaction to “growing populism in the world”. In March 2018, the first national subsidiary party was founded in Hamburg, Germany but Volt now has parties in every EU member state.

    Volt claimed that the app did not provide adequate “access to political information”. A bpb spokesman has since confirmed that the popular app had been switched off, and said he regretted the court’s decision.

    “The Wahl-O-Mat has been very successful in increasing political participation. It is even used by millions of people in the European elections. We will examine the verdict and in the next days decide whether to appeal [against the verdict] or revise the software to include smaller parties in the app,” the spokesman said.

    The court ruled that the agency’s claim was “not sufficiently credible”, after the Federal Agency for Civic Education, which is responsible for the app’s content, said that the software could not be technically modified to include more parties.

    In 2017, Thomas Krüger, the president of the bpb, described the voter app as Germany’s “democratic national sport”.

    Some 13.3 million users used the tool ahead of the federal election in 2013 according to Krüger and, according to market research firm YouGov, one in three voters consulted the app in the weeks leading up to the 2017 election.

    In the wake of the 2017 ballot, the conservative anti-immigration AfD party became the main opposition party and entered the federal parliament for the first time, winning 94 seats in the 709-seat German lower house, the Bundestag.

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