The Spitzenkandidaten Procedure: Reflecting on the Future of an Electoral Experiment
Johannes Müller Gómez and Wolfang Wessel
IAI - CSF Working Paper - March 2016
The 2014 European Parliament (EP) elections introduced a novel procedure to elect the President of the European Commission: the so-called Spitzenkandidaten, i.e. pan-European lead candidates nominated by the European political parties. The two main purposes behind this innovation were to mobilise the electorate and to strengthen the EP. The first use of the Spitzenkandidaten model established a new modus operandi of the EP at the expense of the European Council, which now
has to appoint the lead candidate whose party won most seats in the European elections.
However, it also contributed to polarising citizens’ attitudes towards the EU and did not overcome the tendency to compete in European elections on purely national issues. Future adjustments of the Spitzenkandidaten procedure should aim to improve the EU’s responsiveness and make the elections more European. Introducing primaries for the nominations of the Spitzenkandidaten could be a first step, eventually leading to the direct election of the Commission President.