José Bové and Ska Keller will lead the European Green party's campaign for the EU elections in May, after winning an 'online primary’ that polled 22,600 people across Europe, the party announced today (29 January).

“I am very happy to lead this campaign, because it is not going well in Europe,” Bové said in setting the tone for the campaign. “People are turning away from Europe; they don’t have any interest in the EU. And so they fall back on the nation states,” he said, referring to the expected electoral gains of anti-European, nationalist parties across EU countries.

Bové gave the main campaign tagline at the conference organised by the Greens in Brussels: “The Greens have to turn against the neo-liberal Europe." They aim to counter prevailing fiscal policies and the austerity-driven response to the economic crisis, hoping to gain votes on the left.

"In our campaign, we Greens will be clear about what our Green alternatives are for Europe," Keller added, mentioning "a fair and Green way out of the crisis", "putting youth unemployment on the top of the agenda" or "protecting the rights of refugees and migrants". 

Bové, a French MEP, and a Keller, a young German MEP, won the primary over Rebecca Harms, the German co-president of the Green group in the European Parliament, and Monica Frassoni, the Italian co-chair of the party.

Bové is a French syndicalist and arguably the most well-known candidate to have run in the Green primaries. Keller, nominated by the Greens’ youth member parties, surprised in the race by beating the more experienced competition.

The final results of the online primary poll were released today, showing a clear win for Bové and Keller, who were neck and neck with some 11,700 votes. Harms finished third with some 8,100 votes, while Frassoni came last in line with some 5,850. A total of 22,676 ballots were cast and voters were allowed to endorse two candidates.

While Keller is now the front-runner for the European campaign, she may lose the first position on the German Greens’ party list to Rebecca Harms. “I am a candidate to lead the list [at home],” she said today. Insiders expect Harms to take the lead role in Germany.

Candidates for top jobs?

The Greens’ online primaries started in November and the vote closed yesterday (28 January). The leading duo of candidates now serve as figureheads for the campaign and are expected to travel to various member states to support other Green movements.

While these two candidates also serve as single candidates for the next European Commission presidency, all agree that the Greens have close to no chance of getting one of the top jobs in the EU institutions.

Bové admitted: “We don’t have to imagine things. We know that we won’t be amongst the final candidates [for Commission presidency]. But we want to influence the choice of the next European Commission president. It is about what project we choose, about putting forward a common agenda as EU parliamentary parties.”

Keller added that “it would be a good idea to bring some green colour in the elections campaign. It doesn’t always have to be about Martin Schulz here, or Mister X there. We want to campaign on our ideas.”

So far, Schulz, the current European Parliament president, has been designated top candidate (or ‘Spitzenkandidat’) for the socialist party PES. The centre-right EPP party will decide on their common candidate on 7 March, with various top political figures in the running. Guy Verhofstadt will lead the liberals’ campaign for the EU elections.

The European Commission presidency is expected to go to a Socialist or centre-right politician. Whether this will be one of the candidates designated as single candidates in the campaign depends on European heads of state's willingness to agree on these figures after the elections.

>>Background: European elections 2014: Different this time?