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19th Oct 2019

Watson set to pull out of EP presidency race

  • The parliament will vote on its next president on 14 July (Photo: EUobserver)

Graham Watson, the liberal challenger for post of European Parliament president, is set to pull out of the race after the job was split between the two biggest groups in the assembly.

Rumours flew around the parliament on Tuesday evening (7 July) that he had already formally withdrawn his candidacy after the head of the centre-right EPP, Joseph Daul, told a meeting of his group that Mr Watson was no longer in the running.

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However, his cabinet and spokespeople immediately denied the rumour, and insisted Mr Watson still intends to take part in an organised debate later on Wednesday between himself and the other declared candidate for the job, the centre-right Pole Jerzy Buzek.

Mr Watson's attempt at getting the presidency - largely a ceremonial role - was scuppered by the traditional carve-up of power between the EPP and the Socialists, confirmed on Tuesday.

Under this deal, Mr Buzek will get the post for the first two and half years followed by Martin Schulz, head of the socialists, for the second half.

Mr Watson, a UK liberal MEP who was head of his group until last week, first started campaigning for the post early this year.

He began canvassing on a transparency ticket saying the consensus of power between the two biggest groups in the parliament was too secretive, although he later indicated that he would not be adverse to a similar set-up among right-wing groups in return for the presidency post.

Under a deal agreed between the EPP, Socialists and Liberals, Mr Watson may now get to chair a temporary committee on the financial crisis as a consolation prize.

Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt, elected last week, has repeatedly criticised lack of initiative by the European Commission and member states on dealing with the financial crisis.

For his part, Mr Buzek said he would look to form a broad consensus in the European Parliament.

He also said strengthening regional co-operation was important, as well as energy independence and tackling climate change. In addition, he said would be "perfectly willing" to travel to Ireland to support pro-treaty campaigners ahead of the country's October referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

The European parliament will vote on its next president on 14 July, replacing its current chief, German Christian Democrat Hans-Gert Poettering.

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