Explaining the reform of the Europarties’ selection procedures for Spitzenkandidaten

Wouter Wolfs, Gert Jan Put, Steven Van Hecke

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This article examines how Europarties selected lead candidates (Spitzenkandidaten) for the 2019 European Parliament elections, and investigates why these parties changed or did not change their procedural processes compared with the 2014 election. As external and internal factors incentivized Europarties to democratize their selections, the main hypothesis expects more inclusive procedures in 2019. The empirical analysis examines seven parties–EPP, PES, ALDE, EGP, PEL, ACRE and EFA–based on sixteen interviews with high-ranking party officials, internal party documents, and party websites. By leveraging analytical frameworks for the analysis of national parties we first provide a detailed account of these Europarties’ selection procedures and subsequently present crucial factors explaining reforms (or lack thereof). The results show that mainly intra-party dissent hampered large democratic reforms. Our findings contribute to scholarly understanding of intra-party decision-making in Europarties, and have important consequences for the role of Europarties in future democratizing efforts of the EU.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdoi: 10.1080/07036337.2021.1876687
Pages (from-to)891-914
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of European Integration
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • candidate selection
  • EU democracy
  • European elections
  • European political parties
  • party reform
  • Spitzenkandidaten


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