Opinion & Analysis

The lead candidate procedure isn’t dead – but it’s no longer what its inventors intended it to be

The lead candidate (or Spitzenkandidaten) procedure is where the European political parties appoint their lead candidates on the understanding that the candidate of the party that wins the most seats becomes the President of the European Commission. This worked in 2014, when the EPP’s candidate Jean-Claude Juncker became Commission President. However, it was widely seen to have failed in 2019 when Ursula von der Leyen was nominated as a non-lead candidate.

So, where do we stand in 2024? While it’s clear the lead candidate procedure isn’t completely dead and buried, as the candidate selection and the low-key campaigning shows, hardly anyone seems to believe in it anymore. And indeed, it has evolved beyond what it was originally supposed to be – but it has also got a bit frayed due to the political parties’ erratic candidate selection this time round and the subsequent confusion around what a lead candidate actually is.

About the Author: 

Sophia Russack is Researcher in the Institutions unit at CEPS. Her main research interests lie in the fields of EU institutional architecture, decision-making processes and institutional reform, with a particular focus on the European Commission. 

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