Since the European Parliament represents more than 500 million Europeans, one might think that it would be one of the highlights of this year's political calendar in Brussels.
It lacks the super PACS, the vicious radio and TV ads, and the town-hall-style meetings of the U.S. presidential primaries. In fact, this debate, the only one among the candidates, was not even shown on the European Parliament's website. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly.
Perhaps because the election of the chamber's new president is a foregone conclusion.
It is called "the stitch-up" in Brussels. The two biggest groups in the chamber -- the center-right European People's Party and the center-left Socialists and Democrats, who control a combined 461 of the 754 seats in the current five-year parliamentary term -- determine who should hold the presidency.
For 2 1/2 years, the Polish center-right MEP, Jerzy Buzek, has been the president. Next week, when the whole chamber votes on the issue, German Socialist MEP Martin Schulz should be confirmed to chair the European Parliament for the next 30 months.
Other smaller parties, usually including the Communist group, generally field an opposition candidate who attracts some votes. This time around, both the liberal group (85 MEPs) and the conservative group (53 MEPs) are fielding candidates. None stands much of a chance.
You might be surprised to learn that one of the items the candidates debated was how to make the European Parliament more accountable to its citizens.
-- Rikard Jozwiak