After weeks of suspense, we now know officially the name of the new President of the Commission: Ursula von der Leyen. In this regards, #EuraffexSpotlight chose to analyse this election whose result was not foreseen in advance.
VON DER LEYEN & THE QUIET REVOLUTION
Tuesday 16 July 2019, members of the European Parliament managed to do something that has never been done before: They made the election of the next President of the Commission into an exciting, uncertain and closely fought battle.
With political groups announcing their support or opposition to her candidacy all the way up to the time of voting, no one could be completely sure how it would turn out, something new in EU politics.
Just 10 votes
Ursula von der Leyen needed 374 votes to win the approval of the European Parliament for her upcoming Presidency of the Commission. In the end she got 383 votes. That means that if just 10 fewer MEPs had voted for her, we would not have a President-elect of the European Commission.
Was it really that shocking?
The obvious outcome of the vote is that Parliament’s Grand Coalition of Conservatives, Socialists and Liberals managed to secure the election of von der Leyen, even if almost everyone else were against. However, if one looks closer at the result, it is anything but impressive.
Von der Leyen won 383 votes – but the EPP, S&D and Renew Europe together represents 444 Members of the European Parliament. This means that at least 61 of their members went against their groups on this important topic. When one considers that there were also members from other groups who supported her Presidency, the number of Grand Coalition members who went against their own coalition rises, maybe to as much as 80 or 90 MEPs. Quite a significant number.
A sign of things to come?
For observers of Parliament’s myriad of coalitions, one question that arises from Tuesday’s vote, is whether the narrow vote will be a sign of things to come. If the three largest political groups are this split now, what will the situation look like when future potentially controversial votes arrive to Parliament? What will for instance happen when Parliament needs to vote on trade policy, copyright issues or other traditionally-divisive topics?
What has changed?
Everything and nothing. On one hand things are the same as before, since the Council’s nomination for the Presidency was elected – and with the support of Parliament’s traditional Grand Coalition.
On the other hand, everything is different. The Grand Coalition failed in displaying overwhelming unity, and the result was narrower than von der Leyenand the leaders of the three largest groups had hoped for.
Two things are clear after Tuesday’s vote:
The next President of the European Commission will be Ursula von der Leyen
The European Parliament is not the European Parliament we used to know, and we have all better get used to that thought