The European Parliament is to pick its new president on Tuesday following the unexpected death of the previous officeholder David Sassoli, with conservative Maltese lawmaker Roberta Metsola tipped to replace him.
The timing of the election, to be carried out by secret ballot, has nothing to do with Sassoli’s death. His time in office was set to end anyway in January after two and a half years.
The 65-year-old had already indicated he did not plan to run for reelection.
On Tuesday, Ms Metsola, who turns 43, belongs to the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) faction, whereas Sassoli came from the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D).
Mr Sassoli was unexpectedly elected in 2019 with the support of two major political groupings – the S&D and the EPP – along with liberal lawmakers.
At the time, Mr Sassoli and the groups had agreed that he would hand over the post to someone from the EPP halfway through his term.
If selected, Ms Metsola would be the youngest person to hold the post in the legislature’s history and the third woman.
The Greens, the Left and the national-conservative European Conservative and Reformist factions also put forward candidates.
But as the EPP’s pick, Ms Metsola is considered the frontrunner.
She is acting president, having served as the first vice-president of Sassoli.
The president of the European Parliament directs the activities of the plenary, maintains order during sittings, gives the floor to speakers and signs laws.
It is also customary for them to speak at the opening of EU summits.