PES fires starting pistol on candidates race

The Party of European Socialists (PES) announced today the opening of a process of nominations to be the ‘common candidate’ of the Party for the European Parliament elections. This candidate would then be put forward as the PES candidate for the European Commission President.

In a statement, the PES said that the nominations process – which will last until the end of October – “is designed to meet the many demands for a more democratic and transparent way to designate key European Union posts. It is also hoped that it will increase interest in the election”.

According to the Party, each nominee needs to be supported by 15% of PES full member parties or organisations (at least one nominating the candidate, plus five other supporters). The PES Presidency will hold a meeting on 6 November to verify the process and announce the nominee(s), with the candidate being selected at the PES Election Congress in February 2014. The PES manifesto will be adopted at the same meeting.

Martin Schulz, the current President of the European Parliament, is the clear frontrunner to be the ‘common candidate’, while other hopefuls will have to organise quickly to gain support. Given the seeming inevitability of Schulz’s candidacy, there is the possibility of a ‘Stop Schulz’ candidate – but no one individual really stands out at this stage.

There will now be pressure on the European People’s Party (EPP) to select its own candidate – something that some key national EPP leaders have been reluctant to do, fearing that they will ‘block themselves in’ when it comes to the European Council to select a candidate for the Commission presidency next June. In any case, the EPP is though to be prepared to adopt its candidate – a former or current prime minister, according to the Party’s previous guidelines – in March 2014, at the Party’s Congress in Dublin. Given the location of the meeting, Enda Kenny is a strong candidate, but the Finnish prime minister, Jyrki Katainen, is also well-placed.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party will open calls for nominations on 28-29 November at the Liberal Congress in London. The candidates will be made public on 19 December at a pre-summit meeting in Brussels. As of 20 December, national member parties will be able to vote – potentially online – for a candidate. The announcement of the ALDE Party candidate is scheduled to take place in January or February 2014. Guy Verhofstadt is the frontrunner.

The European Green Party (EGP) issued a call for candidates on 4 September. This lasts until 20 October, after which afiliated parties can express support for one candidate. Candidates must acquire the support of at least four (and a maximum eight) of the 33 EU member parties of the European Green Party. From 8-10 November (when the EGP’s Autumn Council will meet) until the end of January 2014, everyone living in the EU above the age of 16 will be eligible to participate in an online vote to select a candidate, who will be named on 21-23 February, during the EGP Congress.

Finally, the Party of the European Left may also name a candidate. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) is thought to be a potential candidate.