New European Conservatives group in disarray over renegade MEP
The newly-formed European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) is embroiled in a kerfuffle over a vice-presidency post in the European Parliament.
Edward McMillan-Scott, a UK Conservative, has been expelled from the Conservative Party after staging a renegade bid for the post.
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His actions resulted in Michal Tomasz Kaminski, a Polish MEP and official candidate of the anti-federalist group for the post, not getting elected as one of the parliament's 14 vice-presidents.
"Mr McMillan-Scott had his whip suspended when he indicated he was putting in his nomination for vice president of the European Parliament," a spokesperson for the Conservatives told the Daily Telegraph.
The move exposes the divisions within the British Conservatives about the wisdom of moving away from its alliance of previous years with the European People's Party - the EU's assembly's biggest political group - to set up a new faction with socially conservative allies, mainly from Poland.
A UK conservative, who strongly opposed the party setting up its own political shop in the parliament, Mr McMillan-Scott was not put forward by the ECR group but instead gained entry to the candidate list through the backing of 40 individual MEPs.
There is now speculation about whether Mr McMillan-Scott will be accepted in to the EPP as an independent British MEP, reducing membership of the ECR to 54 deputies.
Mr Kaminski narrowly lost out to MEP Silvana Koch-Mehrin for the last place after three rounds of voting.
The German Liberal caused a sensation last year when she claimed male MEPs wanted to keep Strasbourg as the venue for the monthly plenary sessions as it made it easier for them to visit prostitutes.
This claim, along with a poor attendance record and a series of run-ins with the media, has not helped the MEP climb the popularity rankings within the EU legislature.
Earlier on Tuesday, Socialist leader Martin Schulz, also from Germany, said her concentration on activities outside the EU institution meant she was "less popular with people inside the European Parliament than outside".
First, second and third ballots
Three candidates successfully obtained the absolute majority necessary to be elected after the first paper ballot on Tuesday.
These were Italian Giovanni Pittella and Greek Stavros Lambrinidis from the Socialist and Democrats group, and Rodi Kratsa-Tsagarapoulou from the EPP group, also from Greece.
Traditionally the first three vice-presidents elected have greater powers than the other vice-presidents, including the right to sit on the parliament's conciliation committee – a body that attempts to unblock disputes between member states and the parliament over draft legislation.
After a second ballot none of the remaining candidates won an absolute majority sending MEPs to the ballot box for the third and final time, after which the candidates were elected according to the number of votes they obtained.
As well as the storm within the ECR group, some in France are unhappy that no French candidate was put forward for one of the largely ceremonial posts.