In 2014, for the first time in the EU’s history, European voters had a say in who would be named Commission president, thanks to the Lead candidate process. With parliamentary elections approaching, let’s see how this system that designates lead candidate works.
The 2014 European elections gave voters something new to consider: a Spitzenkandidat, or "Lead candidate." When citizens went to the polls, they decided more than just their members of parliament, they also had a say in who would head the next European Commission. The Lead candidate method, based on the EU treaty, was the brainchild of the European Parliament, which wanted to make the choice of Commission president more democratic and transparent. Before 2014, the Commission president was nominated by EU leaders. With the Lead candidate system, European political parties put forward candidates for Commission president before the elections. Debates are organised so the lead candidates can present and discuss their priorities and programmes ahead of the European elections. Based on the results of the European elections, a Lead candidate will be elected President of the European Commission by the European Parliament, after being formally proposed by heads of state and government, who will take into account the outcome of the European elections. This process led to the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission president in 2014. Parliament has said it is ready to reject any nominee who is not designated a Lead candidate by a party.