BERLIN — Ursula von der Leyen will not run in Germany for a seat in the European Parliament in next year’s European elections — but could nonetheless become the center-right’s leading candidate for a second term as European Commission president.
The German politician told her local branch of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the state of Lower Saxony that she did not want to be included on the list of regional candidates for the European Parliament elections which will take place in next June, according to three CDU officials.
European elections take place in the 27 member countries of the European Union and decide which parties – and by extension, which individuals within them – will occupy key positions in the European institutions. Currently, the pan-continental European People’s Party (EPP) is leading the polls.
Germany’s center-right CDU, affiliated with the EPP at the European level, nominates its candidates for the European Parliament through local ballots. This means that von der Leyen would theoretically have to appear on the list of CDU candidates in the Lower Saxony election to be elected to parliament as a member of the EPP – while at the same time being the lead candidate of the EPP, Or Spitzenkandidat.
Still, the three CDU officials, who were granted anonymity to speak freely about the party’s internal dynamics, told POLITICO that von der Leyen would not need to do this election campaign to become the president of the EPP. Spitzenkandidat.
Earlier this year, two officials affiliated with German conservatives, also on condition of anonymity, told POLITICO at a rally in Munich that they expected von der Leyen would have to endure the pain of running for a seat in Lower Saxony in order to win the seal of democratic legitimacy and obtain the nomination of the EPP as head of the list. Those officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
The question of democratic legitimacy is particularly sensitive for some conservatives, given that von der Leyen was handpicked by EU leaders rather than the leading EPP candidate at the time, Manfred Weber, to become Commission president in 2019.
German newspaper Niedersachsen Rundblick first reported on Wednesday that von der Leyen would not run as a member of the European Parliament “but should nevertheless become an MP.” Spitzenkandidat”, without citing any source for this information.
Von der Leyen’s State of the Union address on Wednesday was widely seen as an effort to sow the seeds for her re-election bid, although she has not formally announced her candidacy.
One of the three CDU officials told POLITICO that it was not considered technically necessary for von der Leyen to vote for a post as an EU lawmaker. “In reality, if she runs for re-election as Commission president, she will not serve a single minute as a member of the European Parliament,” the official said.
A Commission official close to von der Leyen declined to comment on his apparent decision not to run in the parliamentary elections. Asked about her potential plan to run as head of the EPP list, the official said that “the president has not made a decision.”
The EPP is expected to decide who will be its main candidate early next year. If von der Leyen is the candidate, she will feature prominently in the party’s campaign – even if she doesn’t appear on any ballot papers.
PROJECTION OF SEATS FOR EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS
For more polling data from across Europe, visit POLICY Poll of polls.
THE Spitzenkandidat This system was introduced in 2014 with the aim of democratizing European elections, allowing European political parties to publicly present their best candidates for key positions such as Commission president. Despite this, it is ultimately up to EU heads of state and government at the European Council to choose who they want for the job – as they did in 2019.
Nicholas Vinocour contributed reporting from Brussels.