Anna van Densky OPINION Nine votes narrow victory of Ursula von der Leyen (60) reveals the fragility of the EU institutions, plagued by political fragmentation, and rise of Euroscepticism, the latter not without reason. The democratic deficit is becoming obvious, especially in crucial moments of appointing the EU top jobs candidates. The obscure procedure of election of the European Commission president, who is de facto ‘Prime Minister of Europe‘, does not inspire confidence neither of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), no of their electorate. The former Europarl speaker compared it to the election of the Pope: the cardinals plotting behind closed doors, while congregation is awaiting for white smoke from the chimney.
After Manfred Weber (47) Spitzenkandidate (leading candidate) from the European People’s Party was rejected by East European member-states, the candidacy of von der Leyen emerged in contingency plan during crisis Summit of the EU leaders. Hardly known outside Germany, overnight she became the most powerful EU executive, the guardian of the EU Treaties, and the monopolist of the legislative initiative.
Among 733 votes cast (one void) 383 members voted in favor, 327 against, and 22 abstained, – with the slim majority of nine votes, von der Leyen became a sensation: first European Commission female president (born in Brussels, in family of a European Commission civil servant).
In spite an attractiveness of the perspective to appoint a woman, confirming European alignment with the gender equality principles, the entire election process was on the brink, attacked by many MEPs for its Machiavellian engineering far from public eyes. It is obvious that the next time it might not pass, throwing the EU institutions in a protracted crisis.
Even von der Leyen – the “jackpot winner”– considered necessary ‘to respond to the need for transparent Spitzenkandidaten (leading candidate) system to be strengthened and the transnational lists to be reconsidered in future European elections.
With 383 votes in favour, the European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen President of the next European Commission in a secret paper ballot. Officially, she will enter office on 1 November 2019 for a five-year term.
Parliament currently comprises 747 MEPs as per the official notifications received by member state authorities, so the threshold needed to be elected was 374 votes, i.e. more than 50% of its component members. President Sassoli formally announced the requisite number before the results were revealed in plenary. The vote was held by secret paper ballot.