EPP's Roberta Metsola has become the runaway favourite to be elected President of the European Parliament on Tuesday after the rival S&D grouping strongly hinted its MEPs would back her.
"We’ve reached a deal with the EPP Group and the Renew Europe to ensure a stable working majority until 2024 elections: strong institutional representation for S&D MEPs and we have agreed on a working document with our priorities: rule of law, women’s rights, social dimension an fiscal rules," the party said in a tweet on Monday evening, shortly after the deadline for nominations for presidential candidates.
Last week sources said negotiations between the EPP and the S&D were still ongoing, and it was unclear whether the socialist MEPs were ready to back the EPP agenda.
The S&D is the EU Parliament's second-largest party after the EPP and its votes are crucial for PN MEP Metsola. If this tweet is any indication of what the party intends to do, Metsola might get elected straight away on the first round on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, no new MEPs have thrown their name in the hat to challenge Metsola for the seat of President of the EU Parliament.
Tuesday morning's election will therefore see Metsola running for the prestigious position against three other MEPs, but she remains the favourite.
Parties in the European Parliament had the option to nominate their candidates up until 5pm on Monday, and despite some speculations that the S&D might push forward an unannounced, last-minute candidate, it did not.
Sources within the EU parliament said that a last-minute candidate was plausible because EU elections are known for their unexpected twists and turns. However, they said it would have been extremely hard for such a candidate to win the election, because presidential candidates usually secure support after weeks of negotiation with parties and meetings with MEPs.
Who are the other candidates?
The other contenders running alongside Metsola are Swedish MEP Alice Bah Kuhnke, representing the Greens, Polish MEP Kosma Złotowski from the European Conservatives and Reformists, and Spanish MEP Sira Rego, a member of The Left.
Alice Bah Kuhnke, 50, is a former television presenter turned politician. She served as Minister for Culture and Democracy in her home country of Sweden between 2014 and 2019, before she was elected as an MEP in the 2019 EP elections.
In 1994 she campaigned for her country to join the EU and later joined the Green Party to advance the causes of social justice and the environment, among others.
Kosma Złotowski, 58, is a former Polish journalist and media producer. Before he was elected MEP in 2014, he served as mayor and member of parliament in his home country.
Sources say his election to the EP presidency is unlikely because there is a strong feeling that the MEPs want a woman as president.
Sira Rego, 48, is a Spanish politician running on the Left's ticket. Before she was elected to the European Parliament in 2019 she worked in nutrition and was a local councillor. She started her career in politics at the age of 20.
Her party believes she would be the best person for the job because her candidacy comes "at a time and in a context in which we have two great challenges: the rise of the extreme right and its war on human rights, and the eco-social crisis."
She believes the answer to these challenges is "changed European institutions" based on the principles of "feminism, environmentalism public services, the welfare state, and quality employment.
What will happen on Tuesday?
Roberta Metsola was chosen as the EPP's contender on November 24. The four candidates were announced in the European Parliament on Monday evening.
On Tuesday at 9am the four candidates will deliver a short speech marking their vision for the EU Parliament.
During her five-minute address, Metsola is expected to highlight the need for parliamentary reform and for the institution to grow closer to the people. She is expected to speak about the need to bring constructive forces to stick together on the crucial issues and she will likely speak about her Maltese roots.
After the speeches, all MEPs will be asked to vote for their preferred candidate.
The first candidate to secure the absolute majority of votes wins the presidency. If no candidate gets that majority, the candidate with the least amount of votes is dropped and parliament moves on to vote in a second, third, and even fourth round until one candidate gets the absolute majority.
In its present configuration with 705 MEPs, the threshold for an absolute majority is 353 votes.
The vote for Metsola's bid on Tuesday will coincide with her 43rd birthday.
PN leader Bernard Grech is in Strasbourg to support Metsola in what he called 'a historical election'.
Tribute to late president David Sassoli
Meanwhile, on Monday evening the Parliament held a ceremony in honour of late president David Maria Sassoli, after his death last week.
The ceremony was presided over by Roberta Metsola, who is assuming his role until parliament elects a new president tomorrow.
Prime Minister Robert Abela was among the heads of state who attended the special ceremony. French President Emanuel Macron and Sassoli's family were also present.
In an address to parliament, Metsola said Europe lost a leader, democracy lost a champion and his colleagues lost a friend.
"David was one of us. He was a man of great vision and conviction. He took tangible action on the values that he believed in," she said.
"Condolences to his family at the time of his untimely death."
Before becoming an S&D MEP, Sassoli was a journalist and newscaster. He was elected EP President in 2019, but had a very troubled tenure due to a stifling pandemic and several personal health issues.