European elections: vote Conservative, get Liberal?

election day 2014It’s polling day here and, indeed, in the Netherlands, as four days of voting for the European Parliament kick off. And, just possibly, whilst the Liberal Democrats are predicted to suffer losses here in the United Kingdom, the groundwork for the appointment of a liberal as President of the European Commission might be being prepared.

Christopher Flores, writing in the EU Observer, explains how;

Should a left coalition be blocked, the left will likely rally around one candidate in hopes of salvaging the loss of the Parliament by being able to nominate a left-leaning candidate as Commission President, which will probably be Martin Schulz. In order to overcome the left’s numbers the right will have to do the same.

Verhofstadt is not only more charismatic than Juncker but his policies are more closely aligned with the ECR, as many of its members previously came from ALDE. The ECR, the only major political group to not have its own candidate for Commission President, will look to Verhofstadt in hopes of moderating European regulation and liberalising markets.

Interesting, but credible?

BerlaymontWell, let’s look at the possible arithmetic. The new European Parliament will have 751 seats and, based on the final prediction of the Cicero Group, the two major Groups in the Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP) and the European Socialists (PES) will have 204 and 190 seats respectively. Both have a candidate for the Presidency of the new European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker (EPP, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg) and Martin Schulz (PES, the outgoing President of the European Parliament and not supported by the Labour Party).

Schulz and the PES can almost certainly count on the support, albeit grudging, of the Greens (54 seats) and the United/Green Left (55 seats), making 299 votes in total. If the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) join forces with the EPP, their 83 seats will make a combined 287 votes, leaving 12 or more votes to find from somewhere.

The UKIP-led Freedom and Democracy Group (EFD) is probably beyond the pale as a potential partner, leaving the only other possible dancing partner as the Conservative and Reformers Group (ECR) currently dominated by the Conservatives. Expected to win 31 seats, if they meet the criteria for a Group (thirty seats in at least seven countries), they are hardly likely to back a German socialist, are they?

Of course, any calculation is bound to be skewed by the non-aligned members, an interesting collection of random strangers and parties who are too extreme even for UKIP to do business with, but Juncker is, as Christopher Flores notes, rather dull and perhaps excessively keen on an ever more powerful European superstate, whilst Verhofstadt made his reputation in Belgium as a tax cutter and has campaigned for a more effective Europe, rather a centralised, bureaucratic superstate.

So, the price for the EPP of getting an acceptable President of the European Commission might well be that it isn’t a member of the EPP. And given that the ECR haven’t nominated a candidate, that leaves Nick Clegg’s best friend as the only show in town. Oh, the irony…

* Mark Valladares is a Liberal Democrat member of the ALDE Party Council. He voted for Guy Verhofstadt to be the ALDE candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.
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5 Comments

  • Sorry but which ECR parties came from ALDE?

  • I thought that apart from the UK Conservatives and Vavlav Klaus’ party, they mostly came from the old UEN group, with a smattering from the previous incarnation of EFD and Non-Inscrits.

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd May '14 - 7:49pm

    “but Juncker is, as Christopher Flores notes, rather dull and perhaps excessively keen on an ever more powerful European superstate, whilst Verhofstadt made his reputation in Belgium as a tax cutter and has campaigned for a more effective Europe”

    Hmmm, so old Guy isn’t likewise a constant proponent of ever-closer-union (read: european state)?

  • Just to confirm: there are no ECR parties that were previously in ALDE, and apparently just one MEP who once belonged to an ALDE member party. I doubt if there is much common ground between ECR and ALDE, so this article has little credibility.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Conservatives_and_Reformists#Membership

  • Matt (Bristol) 23rd May '14 - 9:35am

    Alex Macfie, however there is the Belgian (I think) LDD, which was expected to join ALDE on its entry into the EU parliament and decided to join ECR; it is not a significant parliamentary presence in ECR though.

    I cannot see Cameron being ecstatic about Verhofstadt in the light of domestic politics. I foresee an attempt by the national leaders to prevent the EU parliament electing the president, instead trying to impose their own candidate (I’m sure Cameron would be happy to lend them Boris).

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