The European People’s Party (EPP) has announced its 2019 Spitzenkandidat (“lead candidate”) for the presidency of the European Commission.
German Manfred Weber beat former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb to become the centre-right party’s 2019 Spitzenkandidat for the presidency, currently held by the EPP’s Jean-Claude Juncker, in the European elections in May 2019. The EPP elected their candidate on the final day of the party’s congress, held in Helsinki this week.
Weber, who won the 2019 Spitzenkandidat race with 79 per cent of the vote, was endorsed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel along with most of the other heads of state in the EPP. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán refrained from declaring an endorsement. The EPP is a centre right, Christian democratic group comprising the French Républicains, the German Christian Democrats and Ireland’s Fine Gael, among others. It is the largest party in the European Parliament and, barring any upsets, will have a reasonable likelihood of fielding the next president.
Speaking before the 2019 Spitzenkandidat was finalised, EPP president Joseph Daul said: “The slogan of the other [parties] will be: We want a new Europe. Once they’ve said it, there is a question mark: What type of Europe you want? We at the EPP are the founding fathers of Europe. We don’t want to be ashamed of what we have achieved in the past 70 years in Europe and we are proud of this heritage.”
The European elections process will almost certainly entail the heads of state on the European Council nominating as president the 2019 Spitzenkandidat whose party has won the most seats in Parliament, or in the absence of a clear majority, the leader most likely to be able to form a functional coalition. However this process is not legally binding, meaning the leaders could potentially nominate someone else entirely.
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, the leading liberal party in the parliament, have abstained from nominating a 2019 Spitzenkandidat entirely in protest at what they see as an unacceptably biased system, designed to benefit the centre right.