Postcard from... Brussels


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The Independent Online


It’s two years until the next US election, but already column inches around the world are filling up with speculation about those vying to replace Barack Obama.

But, even though Europeans have to wait mere months to go to the polls, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of Brussels arguing over the merits of the “Spitzenkandidat”.

This is the system whereby the political blocs of the European Parliament can name their candidate for President of the European Commission. The person then becomes the figurehead in campaigning for the 22-25 May polls.

The former Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, will lead the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Finn Olli Rehn, the EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, will run with him in what Mr Rehn calls “a dynamic duo” for the liberal movement.

When the Green Party held an open primary to choose its candidate in an election for which 400 million Europeans over the age of 16 can vote, only 22,676 people went online in a poll that nominated the French anti-globalisation activist, José Bové. He led an anti-fracking rally in Balcombe, West Sussex last month and afterwards summed up the general malaise: “It has to be said: Europe is not coming to the party.”