Lead candidates: who should head the European Commission?

European political parties have put forward lead candidates for the post of European Commission President. Watch the debate in the European Parliament on 23 May.

You will have a chance to find out more about this year’s lead candidates during the Eurovision Debate on 23 May. It is being organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and hosted by the European Parliament.


What is the lead candidate process?

The lead candidate process gives voters in the European elections the opportunity to influence who will run the European Commission.

Before the elections parties put forward candidates for the post and people in the EU can then support their bid by voting for the corresponding party.

How does the lead candidate process work?

Since 2014 political parties have been putting forward their lead candidates for the European elections. This is something Parliament had been advocating for a long time.

In the latest resolution from December 2023, MEPs demanded a clear and credible link between the choice made by voters and the election of the Commission President. The process should depend on securing a majority in Parliament and backroom deals at the European Council should stop, MEPs said.

The candidate of the European political party that gets the most seats in the elections is considered as a candidate to head the European Commission, which is the executive body of the EU.

The EU treaties stipulate that after the elections EU countries nominate a candidate for the post of President of the European Commission, but must factor in the results of the European elections.

Parliament elects the new Commission President by an absolute majority (half of the serving MEPs plus one). If a candidate does not get enough votes, EU countries have to put forward another candidate.

Who are the participants in the Eurovision Debate on 23 May?

The EBU invited political parties represented in the seven political groups of the European Parliament to nominate one candidate for the Commission President post to take part in the debate.

The candidates who have confirmed their participation in the debate are:

  • Walter Baier (European Left)
  • Sandro Gozi (Renew Europe Now)
  • Ursula von der Leyen (European People’s Party)
  • Terry Reintke (European Greens)
  • Nicholas Schmit (Party of European Socialists)

Two parties, the European Conservatives and Reformists and Identity and Democracy, have not nominated lead candidates for the President of the European Commission and are therefore not eligible to take part according to the rules established for the debate.

How to follow and participate in the Eurovision Debate on 23 May

Ahead of the debate, EBU will be asking voters for questions for the lead candidates on their social media channels.

People will be able to follow and discuss the debate on social media using the hashtag #EurovisionDebate. To discuss the European elections in general, they can also use the hashtags #UseYourVote and #EUelections2024.

The debate can be followed live on the following websites: