Stubb fails to become top candidate to succeed Juncker
08 Nov 2018, 21:41 ( 08 Nov, 2018)
The center-right European People's Party (EPP) on Thursday elected Manfred Weber from Germany as its top candidate for the May 2019 election of the European Parliament.
Weber defeated his Finnish competitor Alexander Stubb with clear numbers 492 against 129, as 619 votes were cast in the Helsinki Fair Center.
Addressing the convention on Thursday, Weber underlined the Christian religious background of the EPP. Weber has a conservative profile, while Stubb has been overtly liberal.
Commenting on the convention, Janni Vartiainen, analyst for the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, noted that the EPP clearly did not want to arrange an election preceded by an honest but cruel debate. "Such a debate could have torn the EPP group apart", Vartiainen said.
"So far this large group of European conservatives and Christian democrats have managed to remain one of the most unified political groupings in the European Union," she noted.
In a podium debate on Wednesday, Stubb refrained from taking up the value problems the EPP has with its Hungarian member party. Asked by the media, Stubb said he did not "want to provoke quarrel in the family."
The convention ended with a scene of EPP member party leaders mingling happily on the stage to rhythmic music.
Juha Jokela, a researcher at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, predicted on national broadcaster Yle that perhaps in the upcoming campaign, the European level will be seen more through social media. "But in many countries voters will still identify the EU election through their national parties," he said.
Observers have noted that in Finland the religious overtones in the EPP speeches may be something of a nuisance to the Finnish conservative party that has been building a liberal image. Meanwhile representatives of the small Finnish Christian Democrats got a European level message that supports their local campaigning.
European commentators have noted that the EPP has a good chance of remaining the largest party in the May election, even though it is likely to lose support on account of the advancement of the more right wing parties.
Even though Weber is now the official EPP candidate for the position held by Jean-Claude Juncker, the heads of governments of the EU countries will decide who leads the Commission.
If the EPP maintains its position as the largest group in the European Parliament, its top candidate will lead the European Commission.