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8th Aug 2020

Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament

  • MEP Iratxe Garcia wants Socialists to have a 'recognisable' voice in the parliament (Photo: European Parliament)

Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia is now likely to become the next leader of the second-biggest group in the new European Parliament, the Socialists & Democrats, after Germany's Udo Bullman on Monday (17 June) dropped out of the race.

The new intake of socialist MEPs will choose their next leader in a vote on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the group leaders meet with European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and EU Council president Donald Tusk to discuss the new top jobs at the EU institutions.

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The leadership change reflects the electoral dynamics of last month's European elections for the socialists.

Bullman's Social Democratic Party (SPD) lost votes heavily in the European elections in Germany, winning just 15.5 percent, down from 24 percent in 2014, resulting in 16 seats in the European parliament.

The SPD, the junior coalition partner in Angela Merkel's government, has since slipped to 11 percent in a Forsa poll over the weekend, the party's worst polling since 1949.

Meanwhile, Spain's Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) won 20 seats in the European parliament on the back of a successful general election at home, making the Spanish delegation now the largest among the European parliament's socialists.

In his letter on Monday to fellow MEPs, seen by EUobserver, Bullman refers to this political maths, saying he hoped the group leadership contest would overcome nationalities.

In a subsequent press statement, Bullman - notably not explicitly endorsing Garcia - said: "Currently, it seems as if national interests have a stronger purchase on the debate about leadership positions in the S&D group than content-based visions for the way forward. In light of this, I take note that, at present, the conditions for a successful continuation of my work at the helm of the S&D are not given."

The 44-year-old Spanish Garcia has been a member of the EU parliament since 2004.

Garcia launched her candidacy last Wednesday (12 June), which was followed a few hours later by Bullman's leadership bid announcement.

Garcia then told fellow MEPs in a letter that the socialists "are the only ones who can form a progressive and pro-European majority that can face down the far-right and national-populist forces".

She called for a strengthened financial and fiscal architecture, a strong, safe, united and "ecological" Europe, fairer trade and the protection of multilateralism.

She also urged more solidarity within Europe and outside Europe, and called for a "real common asylum and migration policy, based on responsibility and solidarity among" EU countries.

"Europe must regain its social soul and place people and the fight against inequalities at the heart of its political action," she wrote in her candidacy letter.

She also called for a "feminist, diverse and democratic Europe", and urged Socialists to speak with one voice.

"We must regain a strong voice that avoids cacophonies and makes us recognisable in this new political cycle," Garcia wrote.

The 153 Socialist MEP will vote formally on Tuesday afternoon, and it is now likely Garcia will be the only candidate.

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