Presidential election in the European Parliament: who is a candidate? How does voting work? How vital is the role?

the death of David Sassoli comes to the end of his two-and-a-half-year term as President of the European Parliament.

The process to replace him was already underway and now on Tuesday the election will take place during a session of parliament in Strasbourg.

Whoever wins the elections will be the 32nd speaker of parliament. There have been 31 since the creation of the European Parliament in 1952, including 16 since the first European elections in 1979.

German socialist Martin Schulz was the only president to serve two terms. Alcide De Gasperi, Christian Democrat MEP and former Italian Prime Minister, died early in his term and was replaced for the rest of it.

How is a new President of the European Parliament elected?

Presidential candidates can be presented either by a political group or by a group of MEPs reaching the so-called low threshold, i.e. 5% of the deputies, or 36 out of 705 when all the seats are filled.

The President is elected by an absolute majority of the valid votes – 50% plus one – cast by secret ballot. Blank or invalid votes are not taken into account in this calculation.

If the first round does not deliver a winner, the same candidate or other candidates may be nominated for a second and a third round, under the same conditions. If no one is elected at the end of the third round, the two candidates having obtained the most votes in this round proceed to a fourth and final vote.

The newly elected president can then deliver an opening speech before presiding over the election of the other members of the parliament bureau. Appointments to parliamentary committees for the rest of the legislature are then confirmed during the same plenary session.

All elected terms in parliament (the president, vice-presidents, quaestors, presidents and vice-presidents of committees and delegations) are renewed every two and a half years – at the beginning of the five-year term and at the mid-term.

What is the role of the President of the European Parliament and how important is it?

The role is essentially ceremonial. According to the European Parliament’s official website, the president’s duties include representing the institution “towards the outside world and in its relations with the other EU institutions”.

The President also chairs the plenary sessions of Parliament, both when MEPs meet in Strasbourg once a month, but also in Brussels.

If there are legal matters related to the parliament, the Speaker deals with them, while supervising the work of the parliament and its constituent bodies, as well as the plenary debates and ensuring compliance with the rules of procedure of the parliament.

When EU leaders meet at a summit, the president sets out the institution’s position on the issues that will be discussed at the meeting.

In addition to the President of the European Council, the President of the European Parliament signs all laws passed under the so-called law ordinary legislative procedure, so that it becomes formal legislation, as well as under the co-decision procedure.

Who is in the running to be the next President of the European Parliament?

This time, four candidates from different political parties are running for the presidency.

The favorite and MEP who should win is Roberta Metsola, 42, who was first vice-president during Sassoli’s tenure and is the official candidate of the center-right group of the European People’s Party (EPP).

She wants to lead a forward-looking European Parliament.

“What we are looking for is a reinvigorated renewal of a forward-looking parliament with a very modern way of doing politics,” Metsola said.

The Greens proposed Alice Bah Kuhnke, 50, from Sweden. For her, it is essential to elect a progressive and competent leader.

“Finally, the different political groups in the European Parliament consider competence as the most important factor that the candidate should carry. So I am very proud to be one of the competent people and we happen to have several women among the candidates and that’s great,” Bah Kuhnke told Euronews.

Among the other candidates from the small groups is the Spanish MEP Sira Rego, representing the left-wing group (GUE/NGL).

She says she runs in a “symbolic way”, but with a bigger purpose.

“We need to have social muscle, muscle in public services to face any challenge,” Rego said. “We have seen that the COVID-19 crisis has put us in front of the mirror of the vulnerabilities we have when we lose public services and we believe that is a substantial element, in addition to employment and wage policies worthy.”

Polish MEP Kosma Zlotowski, from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, is the only man to challenge the three women.

In an interview with Euronews, he said the rule of law was one of the priorities close to his heart, an issue his political party and government back home have problems with.

“We talk about the rule of law in Poland, for example, or in Hungary, but are we here in parliament doing everything in accordance with the rule of law. In my opinion, no,” Złotowski said.

The new president is expected to be announced on Tuesday.

Maria D. Ervin