Tuesday 13 December 2011

Nirj Deva and the European Parliament Presidency Campaign

The British European Conservative and Reformist candidate for the Presidency of the European Parliament, Nirj Deva, has gained support from far-right MEPs despite not seeking it:

"A nomination paper leaked to Hope Not Hate, a UK anti-fascist watchdog group, and seen by EUobserver shows the signatures of Griffin, Gollnisch and five other MEPs from the far-right of the chamber, one immediately after the other, suggesting the document was passed directly between these MEPs, all of which maintain close ties with each other.

The anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformist grouping in the parliament, which backs Deva’s bid for the presidency, was quick to distance the candidate from his nationalist supporters.

“He has been nominated by the ECR and nobody else,” the group’s spokesman, James Holtum, told EUobserver."

Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats group (the centre-left group), will probably win the contest as there is an agreement between the European People's Party group and the S&D that they will share the presidency during this parliament. The current president, Jerzy Buzek (EPP) will soon stand down, and Schulz will be officially backed by the EPP and the Liberal group. However, Schulz isn't the most popular MEP, and British Liberal MEP Diane Wallis is running as an independent against him.

With two challengers to the EPP-S&D carve up, it will be interesting to see who will do better. Wallis is officially acting without the support of her Liberal group, but she could attract those liberal and EPP MEPs - and perhaps even some S&D MEPs - who can't bring themselves to vote for Schulz. But how will it compare to Deva's support? Though the ECR group doesn't attract a lot of good will, and therefore is handicapped when it comes to building parliamentary coalitions, Deva is a well respected MEP who, according to EUObserver, has won "MEP of the year" in the area of development last month.

It's good to see the ECR contesting the election. The EP presidency is more political than the role of most parliamentary speakers/chairpersons as the EP President has to stick up for the Parliament in inter-institutional battles. So while I don't support the ECR, this is exactly the kind of election they should be contesting: institutional politics and questions of integration are a major reason for founding the ECR in the first place. Will Deva present himself as more than just a candidate hoping to force an election, and run on a more ideological campaign? It would be a lost opportunity if he doesn't, even if it makes it harder for him to build alliances.

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