Sunday

19th Jan 2020

Famous women conquer European Parliament

  • Meglena Kuneva has won her seat as a MEP but could be sent again as EU commissioner. (Photo: European Communities, 2008)

EU commissioners, impressive justice campaigners or just young and splashy, they are the famous women who scored big in the European elections.

She always wears Dior and has made a name for herself as France's first justice minister with an immigrant background. Rachida Dati, the 43-year old single mother who went back to work five days after giving birth to her daughter, secured a safe victory for Nicolas Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). The party scored 27.8 percent of the votes, eleven percentage points ahead of the rival Socialist party.

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A big winner in the French elections was also the Green candidate, Eva Joly, second on the Europe Ecologie list after Daniel Cohn-Bendit. A Norwegian-French magistrate specialising in financial affairs, the 65-year old Ms Joly played a key role in exposing high-level corruption in the French state-owned oil giant, Elf Aquitaine. Ms Joly said she hoped to gain a majority in the new EU legislature to seriously combat tax havens and for "more justice between the north and the south."

Earlier this year, she was employed by the Icelandic government to investigate the possibility of fraud and embezzlement in the financial crisis that has paralysed the country since 2008.

In the UK, Argentine-born Spanish accountant Marta Andreasen also won a seat in the European Parliament, but on a eurosceptic ticket on the lists of the Independence Party (Ukip). A former EU commission accountant, Ms Andreasen became well known after she refused to sign off the 2001 accounts, citing "serious and glaring" irregularities in the commission's books. She was suspended only months later for "failure to show sufficient loyalty and respect," underwent a disciplinary procedure and in the end was fired in 2005.

"Possibly no other case than mine has shown better how easily a bureaucracy – without any kind of external constitutional mechanism to correct or qualify its procedures – can become a tyranny," she wrote in her recent book "Brussels laid bare."

Similar to Ms Andreasen, former Romanian justice minister Monica Macovei, highly appreciated in Europe for her strong anti-corruption drive, was also dismissed from the government in 2007 on grounds of "lack of loyalty" after she refused to sign off governmental decrees which were custom-made for the political elite.

Ms Macovei won a seat on the lists of the centre-right Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), currently leading partner in a governing coalition together with the Social Democrats.

Asked how she envisaged her role in the new legislature, Ms Macovei said she wouldn't like to see bad Romanian habits, such as corruption of local officials "brought to Brussels", but she would rather bring justice and the rule of law from Brussels "back home, once and for all."

Meanwhile, Rita Borsellino, a symbol of the fight against organised crime and the sister of a famous judge killed by the Sicilian mafia, scored third after Silvio Berlusconi with 229,981 votes to his 2.7 million votes the 400,502 votes of centre-left opposition leader David Sassoli.

In Spain, Theresa Becerril, the sister of a victim of ETA, the Basque separatist group, also did well in the European elections, winning a seat on the lists of the centre-right Popular Party, who defeated the ruling Socialists.

Commissioners elected as MEPs

Polish commissioner Danuta Hubner, currently in charge of the bloc's regional policies, received a resounding victory on Sunday, as she won 43 percent in her constituency, Warsaw. Her opponent, Michal Kaminski, former MEP and secretary of state in the presidential chancellery of Lech Kaczynski, only scored ten percent of the votes in that constituency.

As she ran on the party list of the ruling Civic Platform led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Ms Hubner could stand a chance of being nominated again as commissioner later this fall.

Similar to her case, Bulgarian commissioner Meglena Kuneva, in charge of consumer protection, might also retake a portfolio in the next EU executive, but so far has secured her MEP seat on the lists of the otherwise badly scoring party of former Bulgarian king Simeon II. Ms Kuneva got the highest score among the voters who supported her party – 28.5 percent. Ms Kuneva's Facebook profile was also the most popular amongst Internet-users, according to Bulgarian press reports.

Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding secured the victory in Luxembourg of the centre-right Christian-Social party led by Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. However, the party lost seven percentage points compared to 2004 when Mr Juncker was head of the list.

A former EU commissioner from Latvia, Sandra Kalniete managed to get the most votes for her party, the centre-right Civic Union, which scored 24.32 percent. The party is a junior member of Latvia's coalition government. Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis's New Era party won only 6.66 percent of the vote. Ms Kalniete's victory reflected the public's sympathy after she was sidelined and not sent as a full commissioner in 2004 after quitting the ruling party.

Meanwhile, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, wife of Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, has surprised pundits and is set to win one of the country's 18 seats.

Ms Bildt, who has worked for the United Nations on the Balkans, overshadowed top-candidate Gunnar Hokmark in the popular vote, signalling she would clinch one of the party's four seats. The vote count was due to be completed Wednesday.

Flashy and controversial

Former Miss Italy contender Barbara Matera was also popular with the voters, scoring second in the south of the Peninsula after her party leader Silvio Berlusconi. The scandal-prone premier kept only Ms Matera on the list, from an initial handful of top models and TV hostesses aimed at "renewing the image of Italy in Europe." The 27-year old TV hostess rejected her showgirl image and said her bid was challenging the "prejudice" that beauty and intellect cannot co-exist.

As flashy as Ms Matera and as well-connected to the country's top politics is Elena Basescu, the daughter of the Romanian president, who won her seat in the European Parliament with 4.2 percent of the votes.

She ran as an independent, but according to an investigation ran by the news portal Hotnews.ro, the centre-right Liberal-Democratic Party (PDL) of her father "sacrificed" some of the votes of its members in order to get her in. The journalist phoned up eight party branches across the country, pretending he was a party official from Bucharest and asked about their strategies to secure the votes for Ms Basescu. Five of the eight branches confirmed they had activists who would vote for her.

The president's daughter rejoined PDL on the day following the elections and claimed she was the target of media attacks because of her family origin.

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