Fünf Fragen zur Europawahl und zum “Spitzenkandidaten”-Prozess: Antworten von MATEJ AVBELJ

von Matej Avbelj

For the upcoming European elections, most European parties have nominated candidates for President of the EU Commission. In the Brussels jargon, this issue is called the „Spitzenkandidat process“. How German is this idea? Does is actually make sense in other parliamentary systems or constitutional traditions?

The “Spitzenkandidat process”, other than for its German denomination, is neither a particularly German idea nor something that would be characteristic exclusively of the German constitutional tradition. In the parliamentary systems the identification of potential candidates for the prime minister prior to the elections facilitates the elections through their personalization, makes them more accessible to the electorate, so that they are not merely (or at all) a choice between different political programs and ideologies but foremost between different leaders and what they stand for. The Slovenian constitutional practice, which I am most familiar with, has traditionally been conducted in those terms.

If the „Spitzenkandidat process“ succeeds and the next Commission President will in fact be the top candidate of the party with the largest share of the vote – will he/she then possess proper democratic legitimacy of his/her own right? And if so, how would that affect the power balance in the EU with respect to member state governments?

A thereby elected Commission President will certainly enjoy more democratic legitimacy as his predecessors did. Whether this will be proper, sufficient in itself or the like, is hard to tell in advance as legitimacy is always composed of an input and an output side. With regard to the former, the new process of nomination of the Commission President might be as good as it gets in terms of legitimacy within the present EU constitutional constellation. With regard to the latter, his legitimacy will depend on the performance of his role ...

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