Time is running out for a socialist candidate

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (picture Supermarketstein)

At the campaign launch for the socialist European election manifesto in Brussels on 11 February, PES leader Poul Nyrup Rasmussen was pressed on whether there would be a socialist candidate for president of the European Commission.

Current president Jose Manuel Barroso is clearly seeking re-election. He has been touring national capitals picking up endorsements from prime ministers long before the actual European elections on 4 to 7 June, and his face smiles out from an advert on European political and news websites inviting you to him how the EU can improve your life. Will the Socialists challenge him?

The PES congress in Madrid at the beginning of December last year had not mentioned the prospect of nominating a candidate, and the manifesto unveiled at the campaign launch turned out to be silent on the subject, too. The answer from the PES leaders on the day was that they had not decided yet whether or not to nominate a candidate, which is an answer for a day but it is not an answer for all time. Eventually, the failure to take a decision turns into a decision of its own, which is to decline to contest the election.

This blog identified six reasons why the socialists might prefer not to nominate a candidate. Damien Routisseau-Magrou and Irene Sabio have suggested there is a seventh, namely that a number of socialist prime ministers have already committed themselves to Barroso. An appeal to Jose Socrates of Portugal and Spanish leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to change their minds has been published on the New Federalist website – read it here – but they don’t have a lot of time in which to do so. The elections are only two months away.

It matters, because the Socialists are the only party that can turn a coronation into a contest. Neither the Liberals nor the Greens can change the dimensions of European party politics on their own: the Greens have in fact acknowledged this by proposing to support the Socialist candidate, should there be one. It would be a strange election when the Greens support a Socialist candidate and the Socialists do not.

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