What is a spitzenkandidat?

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By Luke Hurst
What is a spitzenkandidat?
Copyright  REUTERS/Vincent Kessler -/File Photo

The European Parliament elections are to take place in May, with the results potentially reshaping the political makeup of the European Union.

Voters in each member state will choose their MEPs, who get to vote on an array of issues in the European Parliament, as well as holding the executive branches to account.

Which MEPs get elected also has an impact on which spitzenkandidat will end up as the new President of the European Commission - the head of the EU's executive branch.

What is a spitzenkandidat?

Spitzenkandidat is German for lead candidate, and in an EU context refers to a European political party's lead candidate for the European Commission president.

These parties are groupings on a European level, comprised of politically similar parties from different nations.

The parties choose a candidate to be the face of their party, and the potential future European Commission president.

How does the spitzenkandidat system work?

Once the parliament elections have been held, the European party which is able to command a majority governing coalition would likely see its spitzenkandidat likely become the Commission President.

The European Council proposes a candidate for the Presidency, "taking into account the elections to the European Parliament" and under the expectation that the candidate put forward by the party which wins the most seats will be "first to be considered".

The European Parliament then votes on the candidate, requiring a majority for them to be confirmed as Commission President.

If the candiate does not obtain the required majority, the European Council proposes a new candidate within one month, to be elected by the same procedure.

Which spitzenkandidat is the favourite?

Manfred Weber, who leads the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), is seen by many as the front runner in the race to replace Jean-Claude Juncker to be the new Commission President.

READ MORE: Who are the candidates in the running for the EU's top job?

Weber is known as a moderate power broker in Brussels. Weber was elected leader of the EPP in 2014. At 41, he was the youngest group leader in the European Parliament at the time.

He is known for his hard stance on migration but has rallied against European anti-immigrant populists.

READ MORE: European Parliament elections 2019: all you need to know about how they work