European Parliament to pick new speaker

January 17, 2017 10:30 pm

Member of the European People’s Party Antonio Tajani delivers a speech during a session marking the election of the new President of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on January 17, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The European Parliament is electing a new speaker after a major party withdrew its candidate from the heated ballot in the eleventh hour in an attempt to form a pro-EU coalition with another mainstream party.
Shortly before the vote began on Tuesday, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for , known by its French acronym ALDE, made a surprise announcement that it was withdrawing centrist candidate and former Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, from the ballot.
The unexpected move paves the way for the victory of Italian conservative Antonio Tajani, from the European People’s Party (EPP).
All political groups operating in the EU legislature have fielded their candidates but it is speculated that candidates either from ALDE or EPP, two transnational parties, can emerge as victorious.
Nevertheless, Gianni Pittella, another Italian, from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) has been portrayed as a real challenger for Tajani.
The ballot is controversial since the center-left S&D, the second biggest after the center-right EPP, withdrew from a ‘grand coalition’ deal that also included ALDE, in a bid to field Pittella and to replace outgoing President Martin Schulz, also from the S&D.
Many feared that the seemingly divisive ballot might terminate the decade-long cooperation between ALDE and EPP, hamper the assembly, make delays in lawmaking and cause a major reshuffle of senior EU jobs.
The unanticipated move by ALDE, however, showed that pro-EU parties are trying to keep a grip on the legislature against a vocal eurosceptic minority.
The ALDE has 68 lawmakers in the parliament, while EPP and S&D have 217 and 189 seats, respectively.
Voting in the 751-seat chamber in Strasbourg, France will conclude by Tuesday evening. If none of the six competing candidates has an absolute majority, the leading two will contest a deciding round.
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