The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso is hoping he win win approval for a second term at the EU’s policy-making body following the victory of the right in the European elections. However, despite the right’s thumping victory under the new rules in parliament if the Lisbon treaty comes into effect Barroso will need an absolute majority in the 736-seat chamber, or 369 votes.
Barroso’s backers, the EPP majority party and its Liberal allies cannot muster that alone, and it is unlikely they will be able to find any other allies, especially as opposition to Barroso, led by the newly-strengthened Greens under Daniel Cohn-Bendit, appears to be hardening. The left is smarting after this defeat, and is unlikely to be in any mood to compromise. Negotiations are reportedly already under way, with the EPP suggesting to the Socialists that they might support Barroso in exchange for the presidency of the parliament, and Cohn-Bendit opening up channels to the Socialists suggesting they could work well together. Barroso can be reasonably confident of success, but it has also been reported that the European Socialists under the leadership of Denmark’s Paul Nyrup Rasmussen are putting forward the idea of a possible alternative candidate, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, who lost out in 2004 thanks to a Tony Blair veto because he was thought to be too federalist. Although Barroso could get the nomination within weeks, both his job and those of all the other commissioners has to go before parliament in November for approval, by which time Lisbon could be up and running, supeceding the Nice treaty which demands he win only a simple majority. His second term could be scuppered before it starts.