The European Green Party opened this week its race to designate two figureheads to lead the European elections campaign and be the candidate-designate for the European Commission president.

Nominations will follow in the coming weeks, but key names are already floating.

National member parties are to put forward their candidate to represent the European Greens' agenda in the European Parliament's elections in May 2014.

After national nominations close on 20 October, a handful of candidates will lobby for the support of at least four member parties, needed to secure a position in a second phase of the primary.

From November on, the European Green Party (EGP) will hold an online petition, dubbed #GreenPrimary on Twitter, and call on Europeans “who share Greens values” to cast their votes.

In the primary, launched on Wednesday (4 September), voters will select two figureheads to act “as the heart and the face” of the party, the EGP states. The leading candidates are expected to travel to member states on the campaign trail, support other Green candidates for European Parliament seats and boost the Green vote across Europe.

"No party has ever engaged into this kind of online primary process at the European level," EGP co-chair and German MEP Reinhard Bütikofer said in a statement.

Fellow co-chair Monica Frassoni added that the primary was "a unique chance for people to get directly involved in the democratic process". 

Who’s up for the job?

While the EGP kicked off the ‘primary’ yesterday, Green parties across Europe began putting forward their frontrunners for the European elections in May 2014.

The names of prominent European Greens have already been touted, including German MEP Rebecca Harms, who analysts expect to be nominated this Saturday at a national party conference in Germany.

Insiders name French MEP José Bové and Austrian MEP Ulrike Lunacek as obvious candidates. 

In Belgium, the nomination of the French-speaking party Ecolo could be highly contested: Isabelle Durant and Philippe Lamberts, both incumbent MEPs, are expected to go head-to-head in the run-up of the party’s nomination on 19 October.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-chair of The Greens Group in parliament and one of the Group's political heavyweights, announced earlier this year that he would not be running for a seat in May.

Organising European primaries for the European elections has been discussed by other parties in the past. A common agenda and pan-European campaign faces are hoped to boost voter turnout, which has decreased steadily since the first European elections in 1979.

Main candidates of the European parties across the political spectrum will also serve as contenders for the position of president of the European Commission, who is nominated in a post-elections parliamentary vote.

The elections for European Parliament in May are the first to be held under the new Lisbon Treaty, which empowers parliament to elect the next Commission president – one of the top EU positions opening up next year.