On Thursday, the European People’s Party elects its leading candidate. Manfred Weber is the favorite. It is unclear whether the system will prevail at the top.
At noon on Thursday, the European People’s Party’s (EPP) Congress in Helsinki will officially announce who will be the EPP’s lead candidate for the 2019 European elections. Two very different candidates for the post: the CSU politician Manfred Weber and the liberal Conservative Alexander Stubb of Finland.
Weber is given the best chances, he has prominent heads of government behind him – especially Angela Merkel and Sebastian Kurz – but Stubb is also popular in Scandinavia and in the Baltic republics.
The election is secret, so it is not known how the 758 voting delegates from 67 member parties of the EPP decide. Austria has 16 delegates entitled to vote (Chancellor Kurz, EPP Vice-President Johannes Hahn, the five EU deputies of the ÖVP and nine other national delegates).
ÖVP leader Kurz spoke out in favor of Manfred Weber weeks ago and considers him to be a “convincing fighter for a better Europe” and “like no other for a strong European People’s Party as the largest party in Europe”.
Even in the event that Manfred Weber, EPP Group leader in the EU Parliament, decides the race and becomes the top candidate, it has not yet been said that he will become EU Commission President. At the EU election in 2014, the so-called leading candidate was introduced.Specifically, this means that the party that wins the EU election nominates its top candidate for the post of Commission President. The EU elections at the end of May 2019 could also be different: First, some EU leaders are against the top candidate system. Second, the 2019 election outcome is difficult to predict. Even if the EPP number 1 remains, according to forecasts of all experts nationalist and right-wing populist parties are likely to gain.
Factions far to the right of the center are getting stronger – a right-wing alliance could claim to be the commission president. Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has already raised this claim. In France, for example, the party of Le Pen is currently in the polls in front of all other parties.
Only in February did the Heads of State and Government reaffirm their sole right to propose to be the President of the Commission, as provided for in the EU Treaty. In addition, the President of the Commission needs the support of at least half of the Members of Parliament in the European Parliament – and thus probably voices from several political groups.
At any rate, the EPP is the first European party to elect its top candidate tomorrow. Europe’s Social Democrats will have their party congress in Lisbon on 7th and 8th of December. Your candidate is already known: EU Vice-Commission President Frans Timmermans. The other parties – Greens, Liberals and right-wing movements – have not yet decided. A right, transnational alliance has already been announced.