Blog AnalysisEuropean policy

Will Jean-Claude Juncker be elected President of the Commission?

(BRUSSELS2) Today is the big oral exam for Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The former Luxembourg Prime Minister, appointed to head the European Commission, must obtain an absolute majority among MEPs, i.e. 376 votes.

A challenge for Juncker, for the European Parliament

How many votes will Juncker get? This is the question that haunts the corridors in Strasbourg. Will it be close to the necessary majority? Which wouldn't bode well. Will he do more or less than Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament who obtained 409 votes? Will he do better than José-Manuel Barroso during his first term or his second term (see box). Which is one of the parameters of the election. The challenge for Jean-Claude Juncker is, in fact, not only to be elected but… “well” elected! A power issue for the European Parliament, as a whole, in the permanent battle which opposes it to the European Council, to the heads of state and government.

Last minute concerns

Certainly the two largest political groups in Parliament – ​​which are in a “grand coalition” – have promised their support, i.e. 411 votes on paper. For the Christian Democrats, Juncker's party, it's natural. But for the Socialists and Democrats, it is less so. In this secret ballot, every vote counts. Juncker visited all the groups last week to convince the reluctant and undecided. And, at the last minute, there have been numerous phone callbacks in recent hours. The President of the European Parliament, the socialist Martin Schulz, also took to the arena, touring his “comrades” last night to remind everyone of the duties of being in a “coalition”.

grumpy socialists

Many socialist elected officials have, in fact, announced that they want to abstain or vote against. The “discontent” is particularly strong among French socialists, who criticize Luxembourgers' lack of appetite for tax evasion, and until yesterday evening still wanted to abstain. The Spaniards, some Italians, the Maltese, the Swedes would also be missing, wanting to protest against austerity policies. As for the British Labor Party, it is a question of principle: they are opposed – like all parties across the Channel – to the principle of Spitzenkandidats (head candidates).

Liberals and Greens to the rescue

The Liberals and Democrats, with their approximately 68 MEPs, were called to the rescue, joining the “grand coalition” in Parliament at the end of June. They could, almost as a single man (except a British LibDem) bring their votes to the former Luxembourg Prime Minister.

As for the Greens, they are divided. A final count, made yesterday, gave – according to our information – a small third of the group in favor of the Luxembourg candidate (around 15 votes) and two thirds against or abstaining. Most French-speaking Ecolo deputies will vote against or abstain with one notable exception: that of José Bové who stands out (in the worthy tradition of Dany Cohn-Bendit). “ I am voting for Juncker on behalf of the SpitzenKandidat process – in which I participated – and the progress he has made on shale gas and GMOs. Voting yes today does not mean that we will vote for all policies » declared the former McDonald's dismantler this morning in front of a few journalists (including B2). “ The division here is between North/South, those who have suffered from austerity policies are not very inclined to vote for Juncker” summarizes Michèle Rivasi.

On Juncker's side, however, we want to be reassuring, and reassured by the latest echoes. One of his close friends takes a bet with journalists that the “future president” will “ at least 400 votes”… Our latest count gives around 420 votes. To check in a few minutes…

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde (in Strasbourg)
long version of a paper published in Ouest-France this morning

Read about the Club: some additional details. Juncker's cooking trick to convince


(*) A look back at the election of José-Manuel Barroso :

  • En July 2004, for his first term, José-Manuel Barroso was elected by a large majority: 413 votes for, 251 against and 44 abstentions (out of an assembly of 732 MEPs), i.e. 56,4%
  • En September 2009, for his second term, it had been fairer. The former Portuguese Prime Minister was only elected with 382 votes for, 219 against and 117 abstentions (out of a total of 736 MEPs). That’s a small 51,9%.

Read also (archives 2009):

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).