Anti-abortion MEP Roberta Metsola is the favourite to succeed David Sassoli as the European Parliament president.
Metsola, a member of the right-wing EPP group from Malta, is among four candidates for the position, alongside Spain’s Sira Rego (radical left), Poland’s Kosma Zlotowski (ECR, Eurosceptics) and Sweden’s Alice Bah Kuhnke (Greens).
Each will make their case to their fellow MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday to succeed Sassoli, who died on 11 January and whose term of office ended this week.
Metsola has been an MEP since 2013 and a vice-president of the Parliament since 2020. The conservative lawmaker recently gained visibility by taking over from Sassoli, who was absent from the Chamber for several weeks due to illness.
But the mother of four has also drawn criticism from some of her colleagues for her anti-abortion views, which are widely held in Malta, the last EU country where abortion is still completely illegal.
Aware of the reservations she has aroused on this issue, she assured that if elected, her “duty will be to represent the position of the Parliament”, including on sexual and reproductive rights.
Agreement and disagreement
Traditionally, mid-term elections to the European Parliament have almost always alternated between left and right.
Metsola, 43, was initially expected to benefit from the agreement between the three main political forces EPP, S&D (social democrats) and Renew Europe (centrists and liberals): the groups had agreed in 2019 to support the candidacy of Sassoli, a socialist, and for an EPP candidate to take over for the second half of the legislature.
But in view of its recent electoral successes, notably in Germany, the S&D group questioned its support, with group chairwoman Iratxe García explaining that she wanted to defend a candidate “in line with (her) priorities and (her) values”.
The three groups finally reached a new agreement on Monday, based on a political declaration mentioning several priorities, including the fight against violence against women and for gender equality, the reform of European taxation and the implementation of a directive on the minimum wage.
The agreement also gives the S&D group five vice-presidential posts in the parliament, as well as some committee chairs.
On the far right, the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, which includes the French RN and the Italian League, will support Eurosceptic candidate Kosma Zlotowski of the European Conservatives and Reformists group.
Four rounds of voting
If elected, Metsola will be the third woman to preside over the 705-member assembly, after France’s Simone Veil (1979-1982) and Nicole Fontaine (1999-2002).
To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes cast by secret ballot. If no absolute majority is obtained after three rounds of voting, a fourth round is organised with the two candidates who received the most votes in the previous round.
Voting will take place at a distance, due to the health situation.
In addition to the president, no less than 14 vice-presidents will be elected during the session, for a two-and-a-half-year term. The positions of heads of parliamentary committees and European delegations will also be renewed, fuelling fierce bargaining between the political groups.
According to the parliament’s rules of procedure, the president has a number of powers, including ruling on the admissibility of texts and amendments submitted to the assembly for a vote, in addition to leading debates. He or she also represents the institution at European summits of the 27 Member States.