According to New Europe’s European Parliament sources, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Guy Verhofstadt, will support Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group leader Gianni Pittella over European People’s Party (EPP) presidental candidate, Antonio Tajani should he fail to make it to the second round of the process.
This may tip the balance in Pittella’s favour.
New Europe’s source confirmed that in a closed group meeting of the S&D on Wednesday, Verhofstadt – who was their to present himself as ALDE’s presidential candidate – appeared to suggest that he would prefer to lend his support to Pittela over Tajani, as both sides believe that the S&D and ALDE are more related politically.
This comes less than 48 hours after EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber used his new year message to launch an attack against the S&D and ALDE Groups, feeling betrayed by the Group leaders who did not back up the EPP candidate Antonio Tajani as they had agreed in 2014 with a written agreement.
Weber produced a document showing that the outgoing Parliament President Martin Schulz together with Verhofstadt, agreed that S&D and EPP will rotate presidents, and that furthermore, a “central position”, such as Brexit negotiations chief for the chamber and an extra vice-president position will be given to ALDE. This position was taken up by Verhofstadt himself earlier, on 8 September 2016.
Weber released the hard copy with 2014 agreement’s signatures, suggesting that “the agreement does not include any connection with other EU Institutions,” such as the European Council. It was – at the time – expected that Donald Tusk’s position would be held by S&D’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt, ex Danish Prime Minister.
Tajani would win the election if every MEP were to participate and would vote according to their political positions, but by slim margin of 11 votes. But, if ALDE’s MEPs agree with Verhofstadt, then Pittella could achieve victory.
MEPs are to elect a president by secret ballot on January 17 plenary in Strasbourg, France.