A state court in Germany’s Brandenburg overturned a law calling for a 50-50 male-female split on party lists for regional elections, in a setback for efforts to introduce such legislation at federal level and in other parts of the country.

The law restricts the freedom of parties to nominate candidates and thus to participate in elections, the eastern state’s constitutional court said.

This follows a similar ruling in the central state of Thuringia.

The Brandenburg court ruled in favour of legal challenges to the gender parity requirement lodged by two far-right parties, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the more extreme NPD.

“Parity means gender apartheid,” Beatrix von Storch, a leading member of the AfD, said.

“The division in electoral rights of men, women and then ‘diverse’ individuals on top of that is now dead, and that is a good thing,” she added, referring to Germany’s recognition of non-binary gender.

Brandenburg was the first of Germany’s 16 federal states to introduce a gender parity law for elections, after the state parliament passed the legislation by majority. The law went into effect on June 30.

Several other states have had discussions or are having ongoing discussions on the issue.

The debate has also reached the national parliament in Berlin, where several lawmakers have called for such rules to boost female representation.

In the last federal elections in 2017, the percentage of women in the Bundestag parliament fell from 37.3 to 31.2.

Ulle Schauws, a member of the Greens specializing in women’s issues, said there was still determination to find a legislative solution to balancing the scales.

She called the Brandenburg judges’ decision “bitter for everyone who takes the equality requirement set out in [constitutional law] seriously.”

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