Mairead McGuinness fails in bid for European Parliament president

Fine Gael MEP loses European People’s Party nomination to Italian Antonio Tajani

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness has failed to clinch the nomination to become the European People's Party (EPP) candidate for European Parliament president.

Italian MEP and former European commissioner Antonio Tajani (63) was elected as the group's nominee to replace current president Martin Schulz at a closed-door meeting in Strasbourg yesterday evening.

In the first round of voting, Mr Tajani secured 94 votes, Ms McGuinness 57, with French MEP Alain Lamassoure 38 and Slovenian Alojz Peterlé 18.

Mr Tajani, a former journalist and close ally of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was elected after the three other candidates withdrew.


He will now go forward as the EPP’s nominee to succeed Mr Schulz, who announced last month he would be returning to German domestic politics rather than seeking a third term in January.

It is not clear if Mr Tajani will ultimately be appointed president when the European Parliament elects Mr Schulz’s successor by secret ballot on January 17th in Strasbourg.

Largest political group

The EPP – the largest political group in the European Parliament – has argued that its candidate should become the next European Parliament president, after the group signed an agreement with Mr Schulz’s Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group stating that the presidency would pass to an EPP candidate in January.

The S&D group, which has put forward current chairman Gianni Pittella as their candidate, believe that a centre-left president should be appointed, arguing that an EPP president would mean that all three EU institutions would be led by centre-right politicians.

Because no single group holds a majority in the parliament, both the EPP and S&D groups need the support of other parties in the parliament, most of which have already nominated their own candidates.

Mr Tajani was elected to the European Parliament in 2014 having served as Italy’s commissioner for six years, first as transport commissioner and then as commissioner for enterprise and industry.


EPP chairman

Manfred Weber

had urged unity within the group ahead of the vote. In a letter to members, he called on the EPP to reach a consensus on the nominee, and avoid the kind of infighting that has plagued other factions within the parliament.

Mr Weber reiterated the EPP’s claim on the presidency.

“In 2014 the voters have chosen the EPP as the largest group. For 2½ years the socialists have provided the president of the House and the EPP went along with it, to guarantee stability and the capacity to act in turbulent times,” he wrote.

“Following decades of good democratic tradition, in most national parliaments as in the European Parliament, it should now be the largest group that provides the president.”

While the other main political groups in the Parliament are fielding candidates to become the next European Parliament president, it is understood that McGuinness had the support of the Green group in parliament as the best EPP candidate.

Background negotiations are likely to commence between the EPP and S &Ds in the coming weeks to hammer out an agreement before the next plenary session in January.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent