Grassroots socialists across Europe are pushing for primaries to be held ahead of European elections, by means of blogging and web campaigns, with the ultimate goal of identifying a leftist leader capable of becoming the next European Commission president, EURACTIV has learned.
Bitterly disappointed by the lack of a credible alternative from the socialist ranks to challenge the re-election of José Manuel Barroso, a centre-right Portuguese politician, as head of the European Commission, grassroots socialists are campaigning for Party of European Socialists (PES) primaries to be held ahead of the 2014 European elections.
Inspired by the American model, bloggers argue that it is time to think about the 2014 elections. Memories are still fresh of the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate via nationwide primaries held ahead of the US presidential election, which he won in 2008.
The voters will connect more with European politicians if Europe has leaders who can give a face to the campaign. It would be very interesting to have an internal competition within each party group for the leadership, the bloggers believe.
French grassroots socialists have launched a campaign in support of what they describe as "democratic pressure" over nominating the socialist candidate in 2013, creating "real momentum in the four corners of Europe" ahead of the EU elections the following year.
A Facebook page entitled 'Campaign for a PES primary', launched by activists José Reis dos Santos (Portugal) and Desmond O'Toole (Ireland), had attracted more 939 members by the time this article was written. Judging by their names, it is obvious that all 'corners' of Europe are represented.
Ralf Grahn, a socialist activist and blogger, argues that the campaign for a PES primary is an example of a typical EU-wide political campaign, in which party activists must overcome both tardiness and hostility in order to gain wide enough support.
Europeum, a German-language blogger, raises some pertinent questions about possible resistance from national parties and their leaders to the campaign's demand that individual members of PES national member parties should select the socialist candidate for Commission president.
However, the campaign's main goal is clearly described, namely to harness the potential of democratic primaries to enhance the European Parliament elections and contribute to the EU assembly's development.
Dan Luca, president of the Romanian Social Democratic Party's Brussels section, has published on his blog a calendar for the European election primaries. Luca proposes the following timetable:
- By 1 May 2011: Internal PES communication to develop selection process.
- By 1 October 2011: Deadline for candidate applications.
- By 1 December 2011: Validation of candidates.
- 2012: Fundraising campaign by candidates.
- 2013: Primary elections in the 27 EU countries; each country has a number of votes equal to its number of votes in the European Council.
- March 2014 : European Socialist Convention officially designates PES candidate for European Commission president.
The PES congress, held in Prague in December 2009, offered a mandate for changes to the functioning of the political family, which may include primaries. Debates are ongoing.
However, for the time being, no names of possible candidates are circulating for the top Commission job.