Von Der Leyen Faces Uncertain Future

Mon May 13 2024
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BRUSSELS: Ursula von der Leyen’s re-appointment is increasingly uncertain as she faces a shortfall of support in the European Parliament. With two delegations from her own EPP bloc refusing to back her, she can only rely on 167 votes from her party, far from the required 361 votes.

Mats Engström, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, noted, “The re-election of Ursula von der Leyen seems less likely now than a week ago.”

Whether von der Leyen secures another term as European Commission President and continues residing on the top floor of the Berlaymont building where she has been living and seldom leaves, is ultimately in the hands of the European Parliament. In her bid for a second term as EC chief, Ursula von der Leyen faces a complex situation.

When she was elected for her first term in 2019, she could rely on votes from her European People’s Party (EPP), the Socialists, the Greens, and the Liberal Renew Europe group.

Based on current seat projections, this coalition – EPP 179, Socialists 136, Greens 50, Renew 89 – would theoretically give her 454 votes out of 720. However, it’s not that straightforward. In reality, she only secured a majority of nine votes in the European Parliament’s secret ballot in 2019, with only 383 voting for her.

Theoretically, she should have expected 516 votes (182 from the EPP, 154 Socialists & Democrats, 74 Greens/EFA, 106 Renew).

While around 410 MEPs had publicly pledged to support her, or their parties had, according to the French magazine Le Grand Continent at the time, some MEPs, particularly from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), had second thoughts when voting in a private ballot.

Other parties, like Poland’s PiS, Hungary’s Fidesz, and Italy’s M5S, might have publicly claimed support to gain leverage over von der Leyen, yet preferred her to win by a smaller margin.

The Socialists & Democrats have pledged not to cooperate with her if she aligns with the European Conservatives and Reformists group. Moreover, procedural changes will subject the EC president to scrutiny by MEPs in the next term.

The EPP, wary of relying on the S&D bloc after past experiences, is divided. The Greens criticize von der Leyen’s perceived weakening of the Green Deal. Renew’s support is uncertain, with some members expressing discontent. Macron’s conditional support in 2019 highlights political complexities.

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