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European Parliament presidency elections - towards a more democratic parliament?

[Brussels, 12 January 2012] The members of the European Parliament will vote on 17 January on who should be their president for the next 30 months. Although the Parliament is fond of speaking about democracy, its internal procedures are not transparent, and women are still largely absent from its leading positions.

Non-democratic elections with a fixed outcome

The presidency of the European Parliament has grown in importance over the past decade. However, the president is still chosen in undermocratic manner.

For two decades, the election of a president has been determined by cosy deals struck between the biggest groups, from the centre-right (EPP) and the centre-left (S&D). It is the relative strength of the political groups that has determined who has become president, not the qualities of the individual candidates.

The general expectation is that Martin Schulz, currently the leader of the centre-left MEPs in the Parliament, will be elected, due to a deal struck in 2009 between the centre-right and centre-left.

This deal has been challenged by the candidacies of Diana Wallis, a liberal who is standing as an independent candidate, and Nirj Deva from the European Conservatives and Reformists group. Wallis is the first independent candidate ever to run for the presidency of the European Parliament, and she has the support of a number of MEPs across the political spectrum who want to change the status quo.

Lack of gender balance

The EWL has been consistently calling for gender balance in the European Parliament. Currently women hold 35% of the seats in the EP. The European Parliament had had 13 president, and only two of those have been women.

Diana Wallis has argued as part of her campaign that the European Parliament needs to secure gender balance in its internal leadership positions as well as among the MEPs.

Sources:

European Voice: Presidency must be free from the grip of party interests

The Parliament Magazine: Wallis calls for greater female representation in parliament

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