|Vol.7, No.37, 11.10.01, p1
SPECULATION is mounting that a third or even fourth candidate could enter the contest to become the president of the European Parliament - potentially throwing the race wide open.
Eurosceptic MEPs may put up a cross-party representative to stand against Liberal Pat Cox and Socialist David Martin. Irish Green Patricia McKenna and Danish member Jens-Peter Bonde are touted as potential contenders who could sway the final outcome.
The left-wing Confederal Group of the European United Left and the Nordic Green Left, (GUE-NGL) the fifth-largest group in the Parliament, may also nominate a candidate for the elections in January next year. Spaniard Alonso José Puerta, who ran against Nicole Fontaine in 1999, is thought to be their most likely contender.
None of the new candidates would have a realistic chance of beating the two front-runners. But with both Ireland's Cox and Scotland's Martin needing to pick up votes from the Parliament's smaller groups to gain an outright majority, any third candidate could decisively tip the balance of the voting.
Bonde said members of the cross-party Eurosceptic SOS Democracy group will field a candidate if neither Cox nor Martin are able to guarantee that small parties would be "treated equally" in the Parliament with representation on decision-making bodies and more speaking time during debates. "It would not necessarily have to be a Eurosceptic," said Bonde. "It's not that we want to have a Eurosceptic as president, it could be another person who would be committed to the equality of the different groups."
Bonde said members of SOS Democracy, which also includes British Conservatives and members of the right-wing Union for Europe of the Nations Group, had almost unanimously supported the idea of fielding a candidate at a meeting last week.
He claimed he was "not interested" in the job, but refused to rule out running if asked to. "I would hope that we would be able to find another candidate," he said.
He also confirmed that McKenna, a prominent figure in the successful 'no' campaign during the Irish referendum on the Nice Treaty, was a "possibility".
McKenna said she had not rejected standing but insisted that discussions were still only in their early stages.
Although she could attract Eurosceptic votes, McKenna might not gain much support from others in the Green group. Anti-NATO and anti-military, she could be considered too fundamentalist by many of her more moderate colleagues.
She has particularly offended others in the group with criticism of Greens in Germany and France, where environmentalists are in government.
Under Parliamentary rules candidates can be declared up to the day of the vote during the first full meeting of MEPs in January.
On 28 November, European Voice and the Campaign for Parliamentary Reform will be hosting a debate between the presidential candidates.
Speculation is mounting that a third or even fourth candidate could enter the contest to become the president of the European Parliament - potentially throwing the race wide open.
|Politics and International Relations