The End of the Grand Coalition and the Significance of Stable Majorities in the European Parliament

A few years ago, the German Constitutional Court had to rule on the significance of stable majorities in the European Parliament. Such majorities were not terribly significant, was the conclusion reached by the Court – at least not important enough to justify a three percent threshold for elections to the EP, laid down in German federal law. Under the constitutional conditions of the moment, the Court explained, the formation of a stable majority was not needed in the EU ‘for electing and continuously supporting a government capable of acting’.

These past few weeks, a crisis has been unfolding in Brussels and Strasbourg that may turn out to be an interesting test case for the German Court’s analysis. This crisis began when Martin Schulz announced on 24 November that he will step down as president of the European Parliament. Schulz was said to form the ‘glue’ which held together Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s ‘grand coalition’ – a bloc consisting of the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists and Democrats group (S&D), which together control a majority in the European Parliament.

Shortly after Schulz’ announcement, this edifice started to show serious cracks, in particular when S&D leader Gianni Pittella proclaimed that he makes a bid to succeed Schulz. Under a power-sharing agreement between the EPP and S&D concluded in 2014, Schulz was supposed to be succeeded by a candidate for the EPP. Pittella’s bid for the Parliament’s chair was greeted by many within his party, who feel the grand coalition constitutes too much of a straightjacket. In the analysis of these MEP’s, what the European Parliament and European Union need today is less paralyzing management and more room for real political debate, during which natural political partners can find each other.

What about the Spitzenkandidaten Process?

This may sound like a sensible aspiration ...

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Gianni Pittella Announces his Candidacy for President of the European Parliament

The Socialists and Democrats have unanimously backed the Group president Gianni Pittella as their candidate for the presidency of the European Parliament. S&D Group president Gianni Pittella said: "It is an honour to accept this new challenge. My candidacy is for change. With Martin Schulz’s departure from Parliament Presidency the balance among the political families within the EU Institutions has gone. We will never accept a right-wing monopoly controlling the EU institutions. It is not a matter of names but a matter of principles and ideas. "We want to put an end to the blind austerity and the national selfishness that has degraded the European Union. We want to put forward a vision based on left-wing ideas, principles and strategies as an alternative to those advocated by the right. "If we want to deal with the challenges and threats facing Europe then we cannot simply defend the status quo. "Our strength is in our unity. Our strength is in being a force for genuine change. It is only through this change that we can save Europe."

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