Polyas Election News 2017

Yesterday all eyes were on Brussels. The EU parliamentary president elections took place in the wake of the collapse of the Grand Coalition in 2016 and the previous president, Martin Schulz, stepping down. Read on for more information from our regular #election news blog.

The election results at a glance

  • Antonio Tajani from the European People’s Party (also known as the Christian Democrats) will be the new President of the European Parliament.
  • He won with a simple majority in the fourth round of voting.
  • Tajani scored a total of 351 votes; whereas his competitor Gianni Pittella of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) received only 282.
  • The victory being made possible by the cooperation of the liberal faction of Parliament.

In November, Martin Schulz (the previous President of the European Parliament) announced that he would not apply for re-election. Schulz explained that he wanted to return to German national politics. Prior to the election, he stressed the importance of keeping parliament united. This, he believed, would be the best strategy in confronting euro-scepticism. In the run-up to the election, Gianni Pittella and the Christian Democrat Antonio Tajani were considered to be the main candidates for the post, and after three ballots without either achieving an absolute majority, Tajani finally won the presidential election in the fourth round.

Factional divides

Manfred Weber – the chairman of the Christian Democrats in the European Parliament – published a previously unknown agreement between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. The deal stated that one party would appoint the President during the first half of the legislative period and the other party in the second. This coalition helped keep the parliament together and united against eurosceptics and extremist parties. There has been a recent breakdown in this agreement. Indeed the both parties were worried that the agreement would not be adhered to. The run-up to the vote has been noteworthy in that candidates have been campaigning significantly more than usual.

At the moment two Christian Democrats are in top EU positions: Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the Commission and Donald Tusk as head of the European Council. Social Democrat Pittella’s late 2016 candidacy announcement dissolved the Grand Coalition with the Christian Democrats.

“A president for all Europeans”

Shortly after Tajani’s election, he declared that he wanted to be the president of all Europeans. He studied law, was a member of the conservative Forza Italia party and a close ally of the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Tajani managed to convince MEPs from both liberal and eurosceptic blocs to back him. However, his election marks a significant shift in the power balance towards the centre-right.

How is the president elected?

The President of the European Parliament is elected by MEPs who vote in up to four rounds. If a candidate is not elected after three rounds, a fourth round is held with just the two leading candidates. In the fourth round, candidates need an absolute majority to be elected. The president’s term of office is two and a half years, thus up two different presidents may serve in a single parliament.

Responsibilities of the President of the European Parliament

The President is the representative of the European Parliament on all legal issues. He is responsible for leading all parliamentary activities and presiding over general assemblies. The president’s signature is needed to enact European Laws as well as the EU budget. One significant responsibility of the presidency is representing Parliament both in international affairs and among other institutions within the EU.

Learn more about majority voting

All EU Parliament Presidents since 1992:

1992–1994 Egon Klepsch
1994–1997 Klaus Hänsch
1997–1999 José María Gil-Robles
1999–2002 Nicole Fontaine
2002–2004 Pat Cox
2004–2007 Josep Borrell Fontelles
2007–2009 Hans-Gert Pöttering
2009–2012 Jerzy Buzek
2012–2017 Martin Schulz

Learn more about how European Elections Work