Lead candidates and the election of the European Commission 


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


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LEAD CANDIDATES timeline and process.jpg        
Lead candidates and election of the European Commission 

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 will nominate their lead candidates at congresses in them autumn and 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 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.

Political parties congress dates and procedures (as of 15/10)

European People’s Party (EPP): Congress 7-8 November in Helsinki (Finland)

The European People’s Party (EPP) will decide on its ‘lead candidate’ during the Helsinki Congress, which takes place on 7-8 November 2018. To become an official nominee, a candidate needed the support of their own party and two other member parties, representing different member states. The EPP Political Assembly will review the candidates on 6 November 2018 and submit those eligible for the vote at the Helsinki Congress. An absolute majority of votes is needed to win.

Party of European Socialists (PES): Congress 7-8 December in Lisbon (Portugal)

The ‘Spitzenkandidat’ of the Party of European Socialists (PES) will be announced following the members’ congress in Lisbon on 7-8 December 2018. The candidate had to be nominated by one and supported by 25% of parties or organisations, which are full PES members. The electoral committee, which is about to be set up by the PES Presidency, will finalise the list of the potential candidates. The main ‘’lead candidate’’ will be chosen from this list by absolute majority voting on 1 December 2018, the PES European Election Day, and announced a week after.

European Green Party: Congress 23-25 November in Berlin (Germany)

The European Green Party’s (EGP) two ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ are expected to be announced on 23-25 November 2018, when the party’s Autumn Council in Berlin takes place. To become an official nominee, support from at least six member parties was required, including from the candidate’s own party. The potential candidates (3) will run campaigns to get the support of the party members. The outcome of votes will be announced after the Autumn Council.

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE): Congress 8-10 November in Madrid

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party will open nominations for its ‘lead candidate’ on 8-10 November in Madrid during the Congress. Delegates from all the EU member parties can nominate potential candidates; however they should also be supported by three member parties in different EU states. If the candidate gets the majority of votes during the Council being held at the end of February 2019 (tbc), he/she becomes the Party´s ‘Spitzenkandidat’.

Further updates on other political parties to come.