Lead candidates and the election of the European Commission 


The “lead candidate” process, first used in the 2014 European elections, gives European citizens a say on candidates for EU Commission President.

Based on the results of the European elections, a lead candidate will be elected President of the Commission by the European Parliament, after being formally proposed by heads of state or government, who will take account of the outcome of the European elections.

This was the case for the first time in 2014, when the European People’s Party’s lead candidate Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed Commission President. Ahead of the 2014 elections, five European political parties had named their “lead candidates”.

Parliament ready to reject any candidate for Commission President who has not been nominated as a “lead candidate”

In a resolution voted in February 2018, Parliament warned that it is ready to reject any contender for EU Commission President who is not nominated as a “lead candidate” ahead of the 2019 EU elections. Serving EU Commissioners may run as lead candidates ahead of EU elections without first having to take an unpaid leave of absence, they add, but they may not use the human or material resources of the Commission for any activities linked to electoral campaigns.

A more transparent and democratic process

The European Commission also recommended that the “’Spitzenkandidaten’ process should be continued and improved in view of the 2019 elections to the European Parliament”. By the end of 2018, national and European parties should announce “the candidate for President of the Commission they support and, ideally by early 2019, the candidate's own programme”, notes the Commission.

European parties to nominate lead candidates

European political parties are expected to nominate their lead candidates at congresses autumn /winter 2018.. They will present and debate their political programmes for the future of Europe in live debates to be held during the election campaign in 2019.

A European political party is one that operates at at European level and comprises national parties with elected parliamentarians in at least a quarter of the member states. New funding rules for European political parties and foundations were approved in April 2018.