Latvian MEPs split on von der Leyen for President

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There were congratulations for newly elected European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen from Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš July 16, but Latvia's cadre of 8 MEPs was split on the crucial vote.

Von der Leyen received 383 votes of 733 votes in the European Parliament with 374 required to secure a majority. 327 MEPs voted against her candidacy. In addition there were 22 abstentions and one blank vote.

More details of von der Leyen's biography and her proposed program for Europe can be read at the European Commission website. 

Of Latvian MEPs, Roberts Zīle of the National Alliance said in advance of the vote that he would not be supporting von der Leyen, saying he was "disappointed" by her offerings and suspicious of moves towards a federal Europe.

The National Alliance also has a mandate in the hands of MEP Dace Melbarde.

In contrast Ivars Ijabs of the Development/For! party signaled he would be supporting von der Leyen, listing ten reasons why.

Andris Ameriks of the Harmony party confirmed he had voted in favor of von der Leyen. His party colleague Nils Ušakovs remained silent on social media before and after the vote.

von der Leyen came from within the European People's Party bloc in the European Parliament, and was supported by Sandra Kalniete and Inese Vaidere of New Unity, which is also affiliated to the EPP. Vaidere offered congratulations and posted a picture of herself with von der Leyen. 

There was no immediate indication which way Tatjana Ždanoka of the pro-Kremlin Latvian Russian Union had voted, though the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance with which she is affiliated had voiced opposition to von der Leyen's candidacy and promisedto vote against.

However the election itself was by means of a secret ballot so the voting record of MEPs cannot be confirmed by the public. The new President is set to take office on 1 November 2019 for a five-year term.

The Commission President-elect will now send official letters to the member states' heads of state or government inviting them to propose their candidates for members of the Commission. Hearings of the nominees in Parliament’s competent committees are scheduled to take place from 30 September to 8 October. The full college of Commissioners then needs to be elected by Parliament, most likely in its 21-24 October session. More information here.

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