The Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament last night announced that its leader, Germany's Martin Schulz, was unanimously backed by party colleagues as their candidate for the presidency of the European Parliament.
The word "candidate" is a bit misleading here. Ever since the current parliament was inaugurated for its five-year term in the summer of 2009, it has been pretty much clear that Schulz will be its president come January 2012.
In the most democratic of all the EU institutions, the occupant of the top post is decided through a stitch-up between the two largest political groups, the center-left S&D and the center-right EPP. That's why the Social Democratic members of the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed Polish center-right MEP Jerzy Buzek when he was elected two years ago, and that's why the center-righters now will return the favor at the end of this year.
But it's not only the "election process" that is controversial.
Many question whether Schulz is the right person to head the Parliament. His debate style as an S&D leader has been regarded by some as combative in a chamber known for its consensus-style politics.
His biggest claim to fame is possibly when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, during a discussion in Strasbourg, compared him to a "Kapo," a ruthless prisoner who worked inside Nazi concentration camps during World War II (video in Italian and German here
). That remark led to a feisty response and a minor diplomatic rift between Rome and Berlin.
MEPs must be hoping that their stitch-up candidate is calmer when wielding the stick next year.
-- Rikard Jozwiak