At the EU-Africa summit in Brussels last Wednesday (3 April), Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt stated that she is not looking for a top job in the Belgian capital.
“It’s not relevant, it won’t happen, and I think people should bear this in mind,” Thorning-Schmidt said according to the news agency Ritzau.
However, four out of ten Danish voters said in a recent poll that they believe the prime minister’s party, the Social Democrats, will fare better in next year’s general elections if Thorning-Schmidt sought a job in Brussels now, and left her current position to another social democratic politician. Still 44.3% of the Social Democrats’ voters prefer Thorning-Schmidt as party leader.
Thorning-Schmidt has been critisised as of late by many mayors representing her party, saying that they no longer believe their party can win the next election and that something ‘drastic’ needs to happen within the party. The prime minister, who formed a centre-left government in 2011, has polled poorly ever since. In January, the Socialist People’s Party left the governing coaltion, protesting its current political direction.
Political commentator Hans Engell said the new poll is paralysing for the prime minister, because so many voters prefer a different social democratic leader. Most popular is the current labour minister, Mette Frederiksen.
“For a head of state this is a disaster, and as a prime minister, this makes her look to be without authority in front of the government, her parliamentary group and the party,” Engell said.
In a popular TV talkshow on Thursday, however, Thorning-Schmidt bet 1,800 Danish crowns (€242) with the talkshow host that she will win the next election in Denmark and continue as prime minister for a second therm.
“There have been speculations about EU positions, but I will stay as leader of my party at home in Denmark,” she stated.
Henrik Quortrup, a political commentator, tweeted afterwards: “Though Thorning is under pressure, we have to admit, she was convincing in that talkshow.”
The European elections will be held in all EU countries in May 2014. The Lisbon Treaty states that the European Parliament shall elect the Commission president on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (Article 17, Paragraph 7 of the TEU). This will apply for the first time in the 2014 elections.
European Parliament, parties and many others have pushed for these parties to nominate their front-runners in the election campaigns. This would make the European elections a de facto race for the Commission president seat, would politicise the campaigns and could increase voter turnout, they say.
But others have argued that the European parties’ push for own candidates may not be the best solution. Raising expectations could easily lead to disappointment, Herman Van Rompuy has repeatedly said, calling for caution in case the European Council chooses another candidate than the winning party’s frontrunner.
- 22-25 May: EU Parliament elections
- Jyllands-Posten: Social Democratic voters want Thorning [In Danish]
- Jyllands-Posten: Thorning bet during talkshow: I'll stay until the next general election [In Danish]
- Ritzau: Thorning on EU top job: It won't happen [In Danish]