The European Parliament is preparing to elect this Tuesday its new president for the second half of this European legislature, in a secret ballot in which the popular Maltese Roberta Metsola is the favorite, but for which other large groups in the European Parliament have not yet decided their support.
The election will be marked by the death last Tuesday of the former President of the Parliament, David Sassoli, to whom the Parliament will pay tribute on Monday afternoon.
In addition to Metsola, the Swedish Green Alice Kuhnke, the Spanish Left Sira Rego and the Polish conservative Kosma Zlotowski have applied for the post.
Roberta Metsola, already serving as acting president since Sassoli's death last Tuesday, is the main favorite to win the post for the next two and a half years, although the two largest groups that have not presented a candidate, the Social Democrats and the Liberals, plan to wait until Monday to publicly announce who they will support in Tuesday's vote.
The Social Democrats, who will make their decision at a group meeting in Strasbourg, are seeking concessions in talks with the People's Party and the Liberals in exchange for backing Metsola: mainly a greater number of vice-presidencies for their MEPs and to replace the current secretary general of the European Parliament, the German Popular Klaus Welle, with a Social Democrat, also from Germany, Markus Winkler.
At a press conference on Friday, the spokeswoman for the Social Democrats, Utta Tuttlies, stressed that in these negotiations the priority for her group is to find an agreement in which their "political priorities, values and strength as a group" are respected, with a "strong representation at the top of the European Parliament and balanced in the administration" of the institution. "All options are open, including putting forward our own candidate," the spokeswoman stressed.
Also the liberal group - after receiving in a closed hearing the popular candidate and that of the Greens - will decide on Monday whom it will support in the vote and has already ruled out presenting a candidate of its own.
Popular sources are confident that Metsola's candidacy will go ahead "with or without the Social Democrats" and warn that some of their demands in the negotiations they are holding "are not realistic".
In any case, the vote is secret and all political families contemplate that, even after reaching a common group position, there will be rebel deputies who will opt for a different candidate. This could play against Metsola among the progressive groups because of her stance on abortion, illegal under any circumstances in Malta.
However, the Maltese defends that her rejection of various parliamentary resolutions calling for wider access to safe abortion is due to the special protocol her country negotiated when it joined the EU, which stated that the community club would not interfere in Maltese national legislation on this issue. That is why all Maltese MPs, also progressive, have historically voted against these texts.
Metsola, however, has defended that she "will always defend the position of the Parliament" if elected president, also with regard to women's reproductive health.
After an introduction of each of the candidates at 9.00 a.m. on Tuesday, the first round of voting will begin at 9.30 a.m. and will last 45 minutes. In contrast to previous elections, where the result was known almost immediately, the pandemic will force the vote to be held remotely and support will not be known until 11:00 am.
A candidate needs to obtain an absolute majority of valid votes cast (half plus one) to be elected; if this margin is not achieved in the first round, a second and third round would be held, in which the same candidates can run again and whose results would be announced at 13.00 and 16.30 hours respectively. Only the two candidates who obtained the most support in the third round would be eligible to run in a fourth round. This final result will be known at 6:30 p.m.
The newly elected president will make a speech after the vote.