Will von der Leyen win the needed absolute majority?
To become Commission president, von der Leyen must win an absolute majority of Parliament in the vote scheduled for Tuesday evening in Strasbourg.
That means, in practical terms, the conservative German defense minister needs the complete support of MEPs from her own European People’s Party (EPP) — 182 votes — and slightly more than the same again, another 193 votes, to clinch the EU’s top job.
On an institutional level, the Parliament largely views the Council’s proposal as an affront. In selecting von der Leyen, the leaders discarded the Spitzenkandidat, or lead candidate, system, which had strong support across the Parliament.
Not all leaders on the European Council seemed inclined to whip MEPs on von der Leyen’s behalf.
In political terms, however, MEPs and other officials say anything less than 400 votes, from mainstream, pro-EU parties, would be a catastrophic result, denying von der Leyen the durable majority and basic legitimacy needed to preside successfully over the EU for the next five years. In 2014, Jean-Claude Juncker was confirmed Commission president by a vote of 422 to 250 with 47 abstentions and some votes disqualified.
A meeting on Thursday of the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents, a body composed of senior MEPs, decided to press ahead with the confirmation process — scheduling a full morning of debate in the plenary in Strasbourg, followed by a vote at 6 p.m. Officials said that the only possibility of postponement would be if von der Leyen herself requested it.
One veteran Parliament official said there is no point in waiting.
“Delaying the vote to September won’t change anything,” the official said. “No one will change their mind during summer and this is not a question of program. She was appointed randomly by the European Council so she will get a random vote in the European Parliament.”
Another senior Parliament official said the assembly, as of Thursday, appeared to be divided into thirds: for, against, and undecided. It is a remarkably precarious position for von der Leyen to be in just three working days before her confirmation vote.