Monday, May 26, 2014

David Cameron turning on the Spitzenkandidaten

David Cameron and the Spitzenkandidaten
Remember The Cullen Plan for pre-election electoral cooperation between the NDP and Liberals? He advocated a deal which enabled one candidate to run against the sitting Conservative MP, rather than splitting the vote and letting the Tory win, which is the reason Harper is in power right now.

In the election of the European Parliament held yesterday, we saw a somewhat similar electoral cooperation pact between certain parties, resulting in what is called the selection of Spitzenkandidaten, to maximize the chances that groups of parties with similar policies will have a better chance of having their candidate voted in as President of the European Union:

Although 388 million Europeans were eligible to vote, fewer than half cast ballots. The turnout was officially 43.1 percent, barely higher than the 2009 nadir of 43 percent, despite efforts to personalise the election with the main political families putting forward a leading candidate, or "Spitzenkandidat"...

First official results from around the 28-nation bloc showed the pro-European centre-left and centre-right parties will keep control of around 70 percent of the 751-seat EU legislature, but the number of Eurosceptic members will more than double.

The centre-right European People's Party, led by former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, was set to win 212 seats, preliminary results issued by the parliament showed.

"As the EPP has a strong lead ... I am ready to accept the mandate of the European Commission president," Juncker told reporters in parliament. "We will have a clear pro-European majority in this house."

The centre-left Socialists, led by outgoing European Parliament President Martin Schulz of Germany, were in second place with 186 seats followed by the centrist liberals on 70 and the Greens on 55. Eurosceptic groups were expected to win about 141 seats, according to a Reuters estimate, the far left 43 and conservatives 44.

David Cameron
And if this works, it is, according to some commentators, bad news for the future of David Cameron’s Conservative Party:

But more so than at any previous European election, the overall EU-wide result and its immediate fallout will affect Westminster. Britons have (unwittingly) been voting in something resembling a European presidential election. In a dubious attempt to make the EU more democratic, the main political groups in the European Parliament have decided to promote "lead candidates" (most use the German term, Spitzenkandidaten) for the presidency of the powerful European Commission. The idea is that by voting for a member party of a particular group, voters can express their support for one of these candidates and thus send a message to national governments, who are obliged by the Lisbon Treaty to take the result of the election into account when they appoint the new Commission.

If British voters are unaware that their votes may be interpreted as such, this is partly because all of the four main parties have kept quiet about this dimension. For the most part the Spitzenkandidaten played ball; they criss-crossed the continent to meet Europe's voters but generally steered clear of Britain...

The party that wins the largest number of seats in the European Parliament will therefore have a decent shot at levering its man into the Commission presidency (especially if that party has strong lead). This will be either the European People's Party or the Party of European Socialists—meaning that, if the Spitzenkandidaten system works, either Mr Schulz or Jean-Claude Juncker will take Europe's top job. Either would be catastrophic to David Cameron's attempts to persuade Britons to support continued EU membership.

For that reason, Mr Cameron is preparing to lobby hard for a non-Spitzenkandidat appointment...

It is no exaggeration to say that if the Spitzenkandidaten system succeeds, the chances of the Conservative Party surviving, intact, until the next European election in 2019 will be drastically lower than if it does not. Come Sunday night, then, look not at domestic results but beyond the English Channel for a glimpse of Britain's political future.

Gotta love those hazy crazy days of summer ...

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