Little support for rigged EP elections

16 January 2007

Little support for rigged EP elections

As expected, the German Christian Democrat Hans-Gert Poetering was this morning ‘elected’ as the new President of the European Parliament. What this rigged election did demonstrate is that there is a great deal of resistance to this system of political horse-trading, under which positions are decided and distributed behind closed doors. Poetering’s majority was significantly smaller than the majority which can be mustered by the total membership of the two political groups which cooked the deal up.

The Christian Democratic PPE and Social Democratic PES, the two groups which in 2004 agreed to divide the presidency between them (two-and-a-half years each), have between them a total of 495 seats. Yet Poetering could muster no more than 450 votes in today’s election. "He may have taken 63 percent of the votes,” Kartik Liotard said, “but this shortfall puts the result in another light. Even allowing for absentees, it seems clear that outside the two big groups absolutely no-one voted for Poetering. The European Parliament dozed its way through this process but this nodding off has sent a pretty clear signal.”

For the Dutch and French, especially, Poetering is a controversial choice for President. "Not very long ago,” Liotard noted, “he announced that he didn’t want to discuss the ludicrous business of moving the Parliament back and forth every month between Brussels and Strasbourg, because the French were promised that they would be left alone as regards this matter in return for their possible acceptance of the European Constitution at a later date. So this man’s horse-trading doesn’t stop with his own post!”

Poetering could also find things difficult in his own country. "The former German President and a number of German parliamentarians are complaining about the lack of democracy both at European level and in Germany itself. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Poetering’s party colleague, will have trouble knocking this debate on the head. And the way in which Poetering was parachuted into the EP presidency today can only make things harder. So at least some good may come of this!”

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