HELSINKI – The European People’s Party, which represents a coalition of center-right parties in the European Union, elected on Thursday its parliamentary group leader as its candidate to replace the current president of the European Commission in the May 2019 elections.
Manfred Weber, a member of the German Christian Democratic Union, became the so-called “Spitzenkandidat” when he secured 80% of the EPP votes cast at a party congress in Helsinki, which helped him easily see off competition from fellow runner Alexander Stubb, the current Finnish prime minister.
“Congratulations to Manfred Weber, our EPP Spitzenkandidat for the 2019 European election,” EPP president, Joseph Daul, said on Twitter. “And thanks to Alexander Stubb! Now let’s join forces to support our candidate as we are always stronger together,” he added.
Weber also took to Twitter where he shared a message of gratitude: “Thank you very much for your support, let’s start a new chapter for Europe,” he said.
The Bavarian-born politicians, who leads the EPP’s group in the European Parliament, where it was currently the dominant political outfit in what is the bloc’s legislative arm, is to now set his eyes on taking the reins as head of the Commission and replace Jean-Claude Juncker, whose tenure comes to and end at the next parliamentary ballot.
In May, voters across the EU’s 27 member states must cast votes for the 705 parliamentary seats in the chamber.
During his formal address to the Helsinki Congress before he was elected candidate, Weber said it was time to create a Europe that served the interests of all Europeans.
“It is again time to defend, argue, and convince, to show the way towards a better and stronger Europe,” he said.
He received the backing of most major European conservative parties.
He is widely expected to face competition from Dutch politician Frans Timmermans, a current vice-president of the Commission, who remained unchallenged by others in his Party of European Socialist ranks.