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A vote for the President The role of Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament elections

Journal of European Public Policy
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A vote for the President? The role of
Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European
Parliament elections
Sara B. Hobolt
To cite this article: Sara B. Hobolt (2014) A vote for the President? The role of Spitzenkandidaten
in the 2014 European Parliament elections, Journal of European Public Policy, 21:10, 1528-1540,
DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2014.941148
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Journal of European Public Policy, 2014
Vol. 21, No. 10, 1528 –1540,
A vote for the President? The role of
Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014
European Parliament elections
Sara B. Hobolt
ABSTRACT The European Parliament promised voters that the 2014 elections
would be different. According to its interpretation of the Lisbon Treaty, a vote in
these European elections would also be a vote for the President of the Europe’s executive, the Commission. To reinforce this link between the European elections and the
Commission President, the major political groups each nominated a lead candidate,
Spitzenkandidat, for the post. This article examines how this innovation affected the
2014 elections. It concludes that the presidential candidates did not play a major role
in the election campaigns, except in a handful of countries, and thus had a limited
impact on voter participation and vote choices. However, the European Parliament
was very successful in imposing its interpretation of the new modified procedure for
electing the Commission President, not shared by all national governments, and this
will have important implications for the inter-institutional dynamics in the Union
and the future of European democracy.
KEY WORDS Commission
Parliament; Spitzenkandidaten
‘This time it’s different,’ proclaimed billboards on the European Parliament in
the weeks leading up to the 2014 European Parliament elections. One aspect of
these elections that was different from the previous elections was that Europeanlevel parties for the first time had proposed rival candidates, the so-called Spitzenkandidaten (lead candidates), for the most powerful executive office in the
European Union (EU) – the Commission President – prior to the elections.
This change was rooted in a modification of the procedure for choosing the
Commission President. Whereas the President was previously chosen by a consensus of European leaders in the European Council which was approved by the
European Parliament, the Lisbon Treaty stipulates that the European Council
shall nominate a candidate ‘taking into account the elections to the European
Parliament’, by qualified majority, and the parliament in turn must ‘elect’ the
nominee with an absolute majority (Article 17 of the Treaty on European
Union [TEU]).
# 2014 Taylor & Francis
S.B. Hobolt: The role of Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament
elections 1529
In conjunction with the introduction of Spitzenkandidaten by Euro-parties,
this modified procedure ostensibly makes European elections similar to parliamentary elections in national democracies, where voters cast for a ballot for a
party (or candidate) in the knowledge that this is also a vote for a specific
prime ministerial candidate and government. A vote for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Germany or the Conservatives in Britain is not just a
vote for parliamentary candidates, but also a vote for Chancellor Merkel and
Prime Minister Cameron, and an endorsement of their governments. Thus,
in theory at least, the 2014 European Parliament elections allowed voters to
give a mandate to specific political platform for the EU’s executive body, the
Commission. In response to decades of falling turnout and declining trust in
EU institutions, the hope was that the introduction of Spitzenkandidaten
would strengthen the European element in the campaigns, personalize the
distant Brussels bureaucracy, and thereby increase interest and participation
in European democracy. While national governments were for the most part
mute on the issue of how the next Commission President would be elected,
the European Parliament boldly promised voters that ‘after the next elections
it is your parliament who will elect the head of Europe’s executive, based on
your wishes, as expressed in these elections. This time it’s different. Together
we now have more power to make a difference’ (European Parliament 2013).
Was it different this time? This article examines the impact of the Spitzenkandidaten on the 2014 European Parliament elections. It discusses how the constitutional innovation of the procedure for electing the President originates in
both the normative debate on how to improve the democratic legitimacy of
the European Union and in the inter-institutional wrangling between the European Parliament and the Council. Thereafter, it examines the variation in the
impact of the lead candidates in the electoral campaigns across Europe. The
most heated debate on the Spitzenkandidaten occurred after the elections, as
the battle on who will be the next Commission President commenced. I
argue that while the Spitzenkandidaten played a limited role in the determining
the composition of the European Parliament, this constitutional experiment
nonetheless has important implications for inter-institutional dynamics in the
Union, and in the long term it may even reshape the nature of European
When direct elections to the European Parliament were introduced in 1979, the
hope was that this would enhance the democratic dimension of policy-making
in the European Union, by creating a legislative chamber that was accountable
to and representative of voters’ interests, thus legitimizing the exercise of power
in the EU (Hobolt and Franklin 2011). Previously, the democratic legitimacy
rested solely, in an intergovernmental manner, on the national governments
in the Council. However, the pooling of sovereignty at the European level
and the move away from unanimity in the Council (meaning that individual
Journal of European Public Policy
governments could be outvoted) put pressure on the EU to establish a ‘European’ electoral dimension, where voters could be directly represented at the
European level, rather than only indirectly through their national governments.
In response to these normative demands for a stronger European dimension of
democratic legitimation in the EU, successive treaty changes have strengthened
the legislative powers of the European Parliament, making it a genuine co-legislature with the Council (Hix et al. 2007; Rittberger 2005). The reforms introduced in the Maastricht Treaty (1993), and reinforced in the Amsterdam Treaty
(1999), also strengthened the Parliament’s role in selecting the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU. As the only directly elected institution in
the EU, the European Parliament skilfully used the normative arguments about
the need for more democracy to bargain for more powers, and it was able to
expand its competences incrementally in return for its consent to decisions
and policies that the Council was eager to have (Hix et al. 2007; Rittberger
Despite the increased powers of the European Parliament, the elections have
not brought about the genuine electoral connection between voters and EU
policy-making that was hoped for. Turnout to European Parliament elections
declined in successive elections from 62 per cent in 1979 to only 43 per cent
in 2009 and 2014, raising question about the democratic legitimacy of the
EU (Franklin and Hobolt 2011). Moreover, it is well-established that European
elections have largely failed in providing a strong democratic mandate for
policy-making at the European elections, and parties and election campaigns
have instead focused largely on domestic matters, at least until recently.
These elections have therefore been referred to as ‘second-order national elections’ (Reif and Schmitt 1980; van der Eijk and Franklin 1996), where voters
behave differently than in national elections. Studies have highlighted three
broad trends of voting behaviour in European Parliament elections (e.g., Hix
and Marsh 2007; Marsh 1998; van der Eijk and Franklin 1996). First, levels
of turnout are lower than in national elections. Second, citizens favour
smaller parties over larger ones compared to national elections. Third, parties
in national governments do worse in European elections than in national elections. More recently, research has also shown that Eurosceptic parties perform
better in European Parliament elections, even when taking into account party
size (De Vries et al. 2011; Hix and Marsh 2011; Hobolt and Spoon 2012;
Hobolt et al. 2009;).
This second-order nature of European elections have been attributed to the
fact that citizens generally have little knowledge of policies implemented or
promised at the European level by parties, and parties themselves often use
these elections as opportunities to test their standing with the public in terms
of their domestic political agendas. The legislative process in the European Parliament operates very much like in any national legislature with members
belonging to EU-level political groups – such as the centre-right European
People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and
Democrats (S&D) – that structure debate over and support for legislation
S.B. Hobolt: The role of Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament
elections 1531
and they decide vital political issues (Hix et al. 2006, 2007). However, despite
the presence of traditional party politics at the European level, voters are generally unaware of this and Euro-parties have traditionally played a limited role in
EP election campaigns. This is not least owing to the fact that, unlike national
parliamentary systems, these elections have not been genuine contests between
competing government alternatives and over incumbent performance records.
While Euro-parties produce electoral manifestos, the extent to which the
national parties use these manifestos in their own campaigning has traditionally
been minimal. Instead, European election campaigns have tended to focus on
domestic political matters and be dominated by national political actors. In
between European elections, the European Parliament is largely ignored by
national media (Norris 2000; Peter and de Vreese 2004). It is therefore unsurprising that citizens have limited knowledge of the workings of the European
Parliament,1 and this has led scholars and politicians alike to suggest constitutional innovations that could remedy the growing democratic deficit in the
European Union.
There is a long-standing debate in the academic literature on how to solve the
so-called ‘democratic deficit’ in the European Union, and how to make the EU
more legitimate in the eyes of citizens. A key controversy exists between those
who argue that the EU should be legitimated through mechanisms of democratic input, such as mechanisms of accountability (e.g., Føllesdal and Hix
2006; Habermas 2012; Hix 2008) and those who argue that the EU should
be legitimated through its performance, by providing solutions to common problems (e.g., Majone 1998, 2000; Scharpf 1999). For those who emphasize input
legitimacy, elections to the European Parliament is the primary mechanism
through which citizens can provide a democratic mandate and hold EU institutions to account. However, despite the formal powers of the European Parliament over the approval and dismissal of the European Commission established
in previous treaty revisions, the link between the political majority in the Parliament and the policies of the Commission has remained tenuous. The lack of an
open contest for the Commission Presidency, between candidates with competing policy agendas and different records, has made it near impossible for voters
to identify which parties are responsible for the current policy outcomes and
which parties offer an alternative (Hix 2008; Hix et al. 2007). Føllesdal and
Hix (2006: 548) write: ‘as the EU is currently designed, there is no room to
present a rival set of leadership candidates (a government “in waiting”) and a
rival policy agenda’. Indeed, studies have shown that voters do not use European
Parliament elections to reward or punish European politicians for past performance (Hobolt and Tilley 2014).
Advocates of greater democratic accountability in the European Union have
thus pushed for treaty changes that would make the EU more like a
Journal of European Public Policy
quasi-parliamentary system by enhancing the Parliament’s role in electing the
EU’s executive. Prior to the Lisbon Treaty, the President of the European Commission was appointed by member states’ heads of state and government
meeting in European Council meeting, before being approved by the European
Parliament, but the Lisbon Treaty brought about an important change to the
appointment process of the President of the European Commission. These
changes emphasized that the European Council should ‘take into account the
elections’ before nominating and that the European Parliament subsequently
‘elects’ the Council nominee.
Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having
held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European
Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain
the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority,
shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the
European Parliament following the same procedure.
(Article 17(7) TEU; emphases added).
The wording of the treaty is ambiguous when it comes to the powers of the
European Parliament to impose its own candidate, however. The European Parliament seized upon the treaty change by deciding that the European political
groups would nominate lead candidates, or Spitzenkandidaten, for the post of
European Commission president. In a resolution agreed on 22 November
2012, the European Parliament urged the European political parties to nominate candidates for President of the Commission. This resolution further
emphasized the increased role that the elections to the European Parliament
play in electing the President of the Commission.2 Ostensibly, this was done
in order to raise the stakes of the vote, personalize the electoral campaign,
enhance the European dimension of the election campaign, and thus to
attract more voters to the polls and create a clearer democratic mandate for
the European Commission. The European Commission provided explicit
support for the European Parliament’s move towards Spitzenkandidaten,
arguing that this ‘would make concrete and visible the link between the individual vote of a citizen of the Union for a political party in the European elections
and the candidate for President of the Commission supported by that party’ and
thereby increase the legitimacy and accountability of the Commission, and
more generally the democratic legitimacy of EU policy-making.3 The initiative
was also quite popular with citizens: according to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in the autumn of 2013, 57 per cent of EU citizens were in favour of
‘European political parties to present their candidate for the post of European
Commission President at the next European Parliament elections’, ranging
from 43 per cent in the United Kingdom (UK) to over 70 per cent in
Hungary and Sweden.4 The European Council and its President were more
guarded in their praise of the Spitzenkandidaten innovation, and openly
S.B. Hobolt: The role of Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament
elections 1533
questioned whether one of these candidates would be nominated as next Commission President (see European Voice 2014).
The hesitation on the part of national governments is not surprising, since the
introduction of Spitzenkandidaten can be seen as a very clear attempt by the
European Parliament to enhance its own influence on the selection of the Commission President. The Lisbon Treaty reserves the right to appoint the President
of the European Commission to the European Council, and whereas the Treaty
obliges the European Council to take into account the elections of the EP, the
European Parliament cannot formally propose its own candidate, and national
governments are under no legal obligation to pick any of the parties’ lead candidates. The nomination of Spitzenkandidaten, however, is a way for the European Parliament of imposing its own candidate on the European Council.
Providing its own candidate with the democratic legitimacy conveyed by the
vote of Europe’s citizens creates significant pressure on national governments
to nominate the elected candidate to accept informally, if not formally, the Parliament’s right to appoint the EU’s executive (Schimmelfennig 2014). Hence,
the potential impact of the Spitzenkandidaten was not confined to the electoral
arena; a primary concern was the inter-institutional dynamics of the European
Union, and competing visions of democracy: a federal vision where the European Parliament is given a democratic mandate by citizens to decide on a politicized European government, the Commission, and an intergovernmental
vision, where national governments retain the powers to decide on the top
post for the largely technocratic executive. Much depended on the campaign
itself, however. For the European Parliament’s argument to be convincing,
European voters would also need to take notice of the competing candidates.
Five of the seven Euro-parties that made up the major political groups in the
European Parliament announced candidates for the European Commission Presidency in advance of the elections. The largest Euro-party, the centre-right
European People’s Party, nominated the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker; the centre-left Party of European Socialists confirmed the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, as their
nominee; the third-largest grouping, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats
for Europe, nominated the former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt;
the Party of the European Left nominated the head of the Greek party
SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, as their candidate; and the European Green Party
nominated two candidates for EU Commission President, both of whom
were chosen by citizens in an online open primary: José Bové and Ska Keller.
Only the Eurosceptic right-wing Euro-parties, the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) and the Movement for a Europe of Liberties and
Democracy, did not nominate any candidate.
Journal of European Public Policy
But did this Presidential horse-race change the nature of the 2014 European
election campaigns, as the EU institutions were hoping? The context of these
elections meant that ‘Europe’ was more salient than in previous EU elections,
albeit for reasons that were entirely unconnected to the treaty modification of
the election of the Commission President. The change in environment was
rooted in the global financial crisis, and the subsequent sovereign debt crisis
that had engulfed Europe since the 2009 elections and which made the issue
of European integration highly salient in the public debate across Europe. In
a recent study of the public debate in six member states, Kriesi and Grande
(forthcoming) show that the crisis has resulted in a remarkable increase in the
salience of the Euro and EU politics in national media outlets, which corresponds with major events in the crisis, such as the onset of the Greek crisis in
early 2010 and the subsequent Greek bailout, the bailout of Ireland in the
autumn of 2011 and the agreement on the Fiscal Compact. They conclude
that ‘the debate [on the Euro crisis] has been exceptionally salient and has contributed to the increased visibility of Europe in the politics of the European
nation-states’ (Kriesi and Grande forthcoming: 24). Survey data also show
that citizens during the same period become increasingly aware the Euro
crisis and more likely to hold the EU, rather than their national governments,
responsible for the economic circumstances in their country (Hobolt and
Tilley 2014). European issues were thus more prominent than in any previous
European elections, yet nonetheless the campaigns continued to be dominated
by national parties, national politicians and national political issues, or at least a
national perspective on European issues. Hence, the ‘European perceptive’ was
largely lacking from these national campaigns.
The lead candidates did make efforts to run a campaign which was distinctly
European in its outlook. The most high-profile innovation was the introduction
of televized debates between the ‘Presidential candidates’. Between 9 April and
20 May 2014, nine televized debates took place across Europe, and four of these
included at least four of the lead candidates. They were conducted in French,
English and German, and were broadcast on the internet, on Euronews and
on selected national channels. A post-election survey of citizens in 15 EU
countries5 reveals that 15 per cent of European citizens claim to have seen at
least one of the TV debates (AECR 2014). The debates generated most interest
in Luxembourg (36 per cent of respondents had watched one of the debates),
Greece (26 per cent) and Spain (20 per cent), whereas only 6 per cent of
Dutch and British citizens had seen any of the debates. Social media was also
used to generate interest in the campaign and the candidates. During election
week, the #EP2014 hashtag was used in more than one million tweets to
discuss the elections. The biggest volumes of conversation were recorded in
France, Italy, Spain and the UK.
The impact of the lead candidates on the campaign varied systematically
across countries. Generally, European election campaigns are rather lowprofile lacklustre affairs (De Vreese et al. 2006; van der Eijk and Franklin
1996). In addition, the Spitzenkandidaten faced distinct challenges.
S.B. Hobolt: The role of Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament
elections 1535
Importantly, despite the fact that the lead candidates had held important posts
inside the EU and in their own member states, they were largely unknown
outside their country of origin before the start of the campaign. Moreover,
the EU lacks a common ‘public sphere’, a common media and a shared language
in which to discuss political matters. The lead candidates’ impact on national
campaigns was therefore largely determined by the extent to which national
party leaders and the national media involved the European candidates in
their national campaign. The situation varied between member states. In
Great Britain, national leaders deliberately disassociated themselves from the
candidates and the Spitzenkandidaten initiative itself. Similarly, in Italy,
Martin Schulz’s presence was virtually non-existent as the Partito Democratico
had chosen not to associate the German candidate with its campaign (CEPS
2014). On the other hand, in France Martin Schulz played a visible role in
the Socialist Party’s campaign. Unsurprisingly, Schulz also featured very prominently in the Social Democrats (SPD) campaign in Germany, and one SPD
poster even highlighted that a vote for the SPD was the only way to vote for
a German Commission President, hinting that a vote for the Christian Democrats was an indirect vote for a Luxembourgian President. Jean-Claude Juncker,
Guy Verhofstadt and José Bové also featured visibly in their national media
during the campaign.
To assess the impact that the lead candidates had on various campaigns across
countries, we can use the AECR-commissioned post-election survey in 15
countries, where voters and non-voters were asked directly after the elections
about the degree of awareness of the political parties and candidates at the European level (AECR 2014).
Figure 1 shows significant variation in the awareness of candidates for the
Commission Presidency. Knowledge of specific candidate names was clearly
highest in the home countries of the lead candidates: 55 per cent of citizens
in the Luxembourg and 25 per cent of citizens in Germany and Belgium –
the home countries of Juncker, Schulz and Verhofstadt – could give the
names of at least one of the candidates when unaided.6 In contrast, only 1
per cent of British respondents were able to recall any of the lead candidates’
names. Unsurprisingly, there is also a close relationship between knowledge
of individual candidates and reported viewing of one of the televized debates.
General awareness that the Euro-parties had nominated a candidate, and
hence that a vote in the European elections meant the indirect support of a candidate for the European Commission, was significantly higher, however. Of
voters questioned in the 15 EU countries, 41 per cent said that they were
aware of ‘the claim that when you made a choice to vote for a party in the European elections you also voted, indirectly, to support a specific candidate as the
President of the European Commission’. Levels of awareness of this indirect
support for a candidate also varied significantly across countries, and was
highest in Luxembourg, France, Germany and Italy, and lowest in the more
Eurosceptic countries, the UK, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and
Journal of European Public Policy
Figure 1 Public awareness of Spitzenkandidaten
Source: AECR/AMR post-election poll of awareness of political parties and candidates (AECR 2014).
What was the impact of voting behaviour? Turnout did not increase, as many
had hoped, but remained at the low level of 43 per cent across the EU. Voter
turnout increased in Germany, France and Greece, where awareness of Spitzenkandidaten was high (see Figure 1). Some have argued that this boost in turnout
was owing to the role played in the campaign by lead candidates. However,
others have attributed the higher turnout in some countries, such as France,
the UK and Greece, to the mobilizing efforts of anti-EU and far-right parties
that performed better than in previous elections. In terms of changing voting
behaviour, it is plausible that the Spitzenkandidaten added to the appeal of
parties (or the opposite) in some countries, such as Germany, Belgium,
France, Greece and Luxembourg, where a significant group of voters were
aware of the candidates. It seems unlikely, however, that it was a major factor
in swaying voters for or against parties, not least because none of the candidates
were ‘incumbents’ defending their record in office. The majority of Europeans
did not vote in these elections, let alone take an interest in the choice between
specific candidates. While there was a stronger ‘European dimension’ in the
2014 European Parliament elections, this was primarily owing to the anti-establishment, anti-immigration Eurosceptic parties that won the elections in France,
Great Britain and Denmark and performed well in a number of other EU
countries. This debate for or against the EU and for or against open borders
was not one that was articulated in the debates between the Spitzenkandidaten,
where the candidates by and large presented a more traditional pro-European,
S.B. Hobolt: The role of Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament
elections 1537
federalist message (that was at least the case for the three main candidates,
Juncker, Schulz and Verhofstafdt). In other words, the Spitzenkandidaten did
not define the agenda of the 2014 European elections, nor did they greatly
enhance the public’s interest in the elections. Does that mean that this
attempt to create a quasi-parliamentary system in the EU was a failure?
While the European Parliament’s initiative to introduce Spitzenkandidaten may
not have transformed the nature of the 2014 European elections, it did radically
alter the process of selecting the successor to José Manuel Barroso. Despite
losing more seats than any other group, the EPP remained the largest political
group in the European Parliament after the elections, and its lead candidate,
Jean-Claude Juncker, was thus seen as the Parliament’s choice for Commission
President. During the election campaign, the Spitzenkandidaten repeatedly
emphasized that it was ‘unthinkable’ that one of them would not become the
Commission President, whereas national governments did not accept that
‘taking into account the elections’ would imply automatically nominating the
European Parliament’s chosen candidate. After the elections, the debate over
whether the winning Spitzenkandidat was indeed the ‘democratic choice’ intensified. All governments – with the exception of the British and the Hungarian
government – who campaigned against Juncker and the right of the Parliament
to choose a candidate – either openly came out in support of Juncker or stayed
silent on the matter. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who had originally said that the EP and the European Council should be jointly responsible
for the election of the Commission President also came out in support of
Juncker after German media made it clear that any other choice would be
viewed as ‘undemocratic’. Similarly, the French President, François Hollande,
said it was important to respect the spirit of the European elections. Some
went even further, such as the Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann, who
said that ignoring the European Parliament election results would damage European democracy (Spiegel 2014). In the end, 26 of the EU’s 28 national governments voted in favour of nominating Juncker as Commission President in the
European Council vote (Britain and Hungary voted against).
With the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Parliament
won an important victory in the inter-institutional battle for power. By imposing one of the Spitzenkandidaten as the European Council’s nominee for
Commission President, the Parliament set an important precedent for the
future which weakens the power of the European Council to select its own
preferred candidates. Critics have argued that this is a dangerous ‘power
grab’ by the European Parliament. They contend that the choice of Juncker
was primarily about the European Parliament reasserting its own power and
that Juncker lacks a popular mandate, since only 8 per cent of voters could
name Juncker (and 26 per cent when prompted) (e.g. Open Europe 2014).
In contrast, advocates of the Parliament’s initiative have argued that any
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choice other than Juncker would ‘further undermine the shaky democratic
credentials of the EU, and play into the hands of the Eurosceptics across
the continent’ (The Guardian 2014).
Ultimately, this debate is not about the specifics of the 2014 election campaigns or whether they provided a direct democratic mandate for Juncker’s policies as a Commission President. Few would argue that the details of his policy
programme played any noticeable role in the elections. This debate is about
different visions of democracy in the European Union: one where European
policy-makers receive a democratic mandate and can be held to account by
voters in European Parliament elections, and another where the only genuine
source of democratic legitimacy in the EU is national parliaments and governments. The Spitzenkandidaten initiative is still in its infancy and it is too early to
determine whether it has been a success or a failure. Proponents of the federal
model of European democracy hope that it can, in time, transform European
elections to ensure that they allow voters to choose between alternative
visions for Europe and hold the EU executive to account for its actions. This
would establish a system of parliamentary government more akin to that in
member states with a more political, and politicized, Commission elected as
the ‘EU executive’ by a majority in the European Parliament. In the shortterm, however, the major effect of these Spitzenkandidaten was not on the
nature of the elections, but on the inter-institutional battle for power that
took place after the elections.
Biographical note: Sara B Hobolt holds the Sutherland Chair in European
Institutions, at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Address for correspondence: Sara B Hobolt, Sutherland Chair in European
Institutions, European Institute, London School of Economics and Political
Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom. email:
[email protected]
1 In 2007 the Eurobarometer asked citizens across the EU whether members of the
European Parliament (MEPs) sit in the European Parliament on the basis of their
nationality or their political affinities. Only a third of respondents realized it was
the latter. Indeed, in that same survey in 2007, less than half were willing to say
that MEPs were actually directly elected, and only 1 in 10 knew that the next European Parliament elections were to be held in 2009.
2 European Parliament Resolution of 22 November 2012 on the elections to the European Parliament in 2014 (2012/2829(RSP)).
3 Commission Recommendation of 12 March 2013 on enhancing the democratic and
efficient conduct of the elections to the European Parliament (2013/142/EU)
4 Standard Eurobarometer 80, Autumn 2013.
5 The survey was conducted by AMR GmbH Dusseldorf on behalf of the AECR. The
poll was in the field on 25 and 26 of May on a sample base of 12,132 respondents
across 15 EU countries (6,083 voters and 6,049 non-voters).
S.B. Hobolt: The role of Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament
elections 1539
6 ‘Can you name any of the candidates that have been nominated by the Political
Parties at the European level to replace Jose Manuel Barroso as President of the European Commission?’
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GmbH Dusseldorf, 25– 26 May, on file with author.
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