Ursula von der Leyen races for second term

Is the future of Europe at stake?

As the European Union (EU) navigates through a turbulent political landscape, Ursula von der Leyen, the incumbent President of the European Commission, is fervently working to secure a second term. This pursuit is particularly challenging given the recent EU parliamentary elections, where her party, the European People’s Party (EPP), emerged as the leading group but faces significant opposition from a surging far-right. Von der Leyen’s efforts highlight the intricate balance of power and the complexities of coalition-building in contemporary European politics.

Von der Leyen’s immediate goal is to obtain the nomination for a second term from EU leaders. If successful, the subsequent challenge will be to garner the support of at least 361 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in the newly elected Parliament. Achieving this requires forging strategic alliances across a diverse array of political groups, a task laden with potential pitfalls and compromises.

On the night of the election results, von der Leyen indicated her intent to initially seek support from the socialists and liberals, who had backed her during her first term. However, the evolving composition of the Parliament suggests that she may need to extend her coalition-building efforts beyond these traditional allies.

According to provisional results, the EPP has secured approximately 26 percent of the seats in the European Parliament. When combined with the Socialists & Democrats and Renew Europe groups, these three blocs collectively command 407 seats. This number comfortably surpasses the 361-vote threshold needed for von der Leyen’s nomination. Nevertheless, turning this theoretical majority into a practical reality hinges on the intricate political negotiations and concessions that will unfold in the coming days and weeks.

One of the most significant challenges to von der Leyen’s ambitions is the marked rise in support for far-right parties across Europe. In several major EU economies, including France and Germany, right-wing factions have made substantial electoral gains, reflecting widespread voter discontent with traditional centrist parties.

In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) suffered a severe setback, finishing in third place behind the conservative opposition and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD’s ascension to second place with around 16 percent of the votes underscores the growing appeal of far-right politics in Germany.

Meanwhile, in France, the right-wing National Rally (RN) party significantly outperformed President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, prompting Macron to dissolve the National Assembly and call for a snap election. This dramatic shift in France’s political landscape further complicates von der Leyen’s task of building a stable majority in the European Parliament.

The outcome of these efforts will not only determine von der Leyen’s political future but will also have significant implications for the direction of the European Union in the years to come. The stakes are high, and the political landscape is more complex than ever, making the task of coalition-building a critical and delicate endeavour.

Von der Leyen’s strategy to form a “bastion against extremes from the left and from the right” underscores her commitment to maintaining a centrist coalition. However, this strategy necessitates a series of delicate balancing acts. For instance, seeking support from the Greens could alienate some conservative members within her own EPP, who oppose key Green Deal climate measures. The Greens’ backing could be crucial, but it comes with the risk of internal dissent within the EPP.

Alternatively, von der Leyen could seek support from the hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), led by Italy’s Giorgia Meloni. The ECR, expected to secure around 71 seats, has been vocal about prioritizing security, migration control, and European values. While their support could provide a numerical boost, it risks alienating the socialists and liberals, who are wary of aligning with hardline right-wing groups.

Despite these challenges, von der Leyen remains optimistic about the ability of centrist forces to hold their ground. “The centre is holding,” she declared, emphasizing the responsibility of centrist parties to counter the rise of extremist factions. Her vision for the next term involves building a broad majority that is pro-European, pro-Ukraine, and committed to the rule of law.

This vision will require extensive negotiations and significant concessions. While support from centrist parties is crucial, von der Leyen will need to navigate the complex political landscape with great skill to secure a stable majority. The rise of far-right and far-left parties underscores the growing polarization within the EU, making the task of coalition-building more challenging than ever.

Von der Leyen’s quest for a second term as President of the European Commission is emblematic of the broader political shifts occurring within the European Union. The recent elections have highlighted a growing discontent with traditional centrist parties, as evidenced by the significant gains made by far-right factions in key member states. This discontent reflects broader societal concerns, including issues related to migration, economic inequality, and national sovereignty.

In response to these challenges, von der Leyen has vowed to “build a bastion against the extremes from the left and from the right.” Her commitment to a centrist, pro-European agenda underscores the importance of unity and stability within the EU. However, achieving this vision will require navigating a complex and often contentious political landscape.

Von der Leyen’s efforts to secure a second term as President of the European Commission are set against a backdrop of significant political change within the EU. The rise of far-right parties and the growing polarization of European politics present formidable challenges to her ambitions. Von der Leyen’s ability to forge alliances across the political spectrum and maintain a centrist coalition will be critical in determining her success.

As the vote-counting continues and political negotiations intensify, the coming weeks will be crucial in shaping the future leadership of the European Commission. Von der Leyen’s commitment to a broad, centrist majority reflects the need for stability and unity within the EU. However, the path to achieving this vision is fraught with challenges, requiring careful negotiation and strategic compromises.

The outcome of these efforts will not only determine von der Leyen’s political future but will also have significant implications for the direction of the European Union in the years to come. The stakes are high, and the political landscape is more complex than ever, making the task of coalition-building a critical and delicate endeavour.

M A Hossain
M A Hossain
The writer can be reached at: [email protected]

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