The European Parliament elections in 2014 and 2019 were different insofar as European citizens had the possibility to ‘directly’ influence who could become the next president of the European Commission. This innovation is based on the idea of ‘Spitzenkandidaten’, where a vote for a given political party also represents a vote for its lead candidate. This article examines the process behind the institutionalisation of the Spitzenkandidaten procedure, with attention focused on the actors involved and their motivations for supporting this institutional innovation. Using a qualitative content analysis of EU institutional and party documentation, the article confirms that the Spitzenkandidaten procedure should be perceived as the culmination of a long-term process beginning in the pre-Amsterdam era. It also concludes that the procedure, as firstly applied in 2014, represents the common effort of two supranational institutions and four European political parties. It is also argued that while the emergence of the Spitzenkandidaten is primarily a result of perceived shortcomings of the EU’s democratic quality, actors’ self-interest was also driving force.
Spitzenkandidaten, Lead candidates, EU democracy, European Commission, European Parliament, European political parties
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.Material published in the JCER is done so under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence, with copyright remaining with the author.
- Articles published online in the JCER cannot be published in another journal without explicit approval of the JCER editor.
- Authors can 'self-archive' their articles in digital form on their personal homepages, funder repositories or their institutions' archives provided that they link back to the original source on the JCER website. Authors can archive pre-print, post-print or the publisher's version of their work.
- Authors agree that submitted articles to the JCER will be submitted to various abstracting, indexing and archiving services as selected by the JCER.