This is a guest post from Professor Frank Schimmelfennig. Professor Schimmelfennig is Professor of European Politics and member of the Center for Comparative and International Studies at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland. His main research interests are in the theory of international institutions and European integration and, more specifically, in EU enlargement, differentiated integration, democracy promotion, and democratization.
BERLIN – Spitzenkandidaten seems to have entered the English vocabulary as a new loanword of German origin – alongside Angst and Schadenfreude (and a couple of martial terms). Ostensibly, the European party groups nominated lead candidates for the post of European Commission President in order to raise the stakes of the vote, personalize the electoral campaign, and thus attract more voters to the polls. To some extent, this has worked for the candidates and their parties in their home countries. Voter turnout increased in Germany (the home country of the Social-Democrat candidate Martin Schulz and the Green candidate Ska Keller) and Greece (the home country of Alexis Tsirpas, the candidate of the radical left). Syriza, the party of Tsirpas, won a plurality of votes in Greece, and the German SPD increased its vote share by almost 7 percentage points. Belgium (the country of origin of the Liberal candidate Guy Verhoefstadt) and Luxembourg (where the candidate of the center-right European People´s Party Jean-Claude Juncker is from) have compulsory voting anyhow but their parties won a plurality of votes, too. Overall, however, turnout in the European Parliamentary elections has not increased from the 43 percent of 2009, and mainstream pro-European parties have seen their share of seats shrink from roughly 80 to 70 percent.