Roberta Metsola faces a three-way battle within her own political grouping to become its candidate to be the European Parliament's next president.

Submissions for European People's Party nominees closed on Monday at noon, with two other MEPs submitting their candidature alongside Metsola's - Austrian MEP Othmar Karas, 63, and Dutch MEP Esther de Lange, 46.

EPP MEPs will be asked to choose one candidate between the three in a private meeting on Wednesday evening. That candidate will subsequently run as the party's candidate in the election on January 17.

It remains unclear whether the incumbent, Socialist & Democrat MEP David Sassoli, will seek a second term. Other political groupings, such as the Greens, may also choose to nominate a candidate. 

The EPP is the largest party in the EU parliament and. It includes 178 MEPs, all of whom will be able to vote on Wednesday.

If she wins, Metsola will be the highest-ranking politician in Maltese history and the first woman to be elected as EU parliament president in over 20 years.

Does Metsola stand a chance of winning?

Brussels insiders told Times of Malta that Metsola stands a chance at winning the EPP nomination on Wednesday, but she must garner support from more MEPs to secure the bid, and everything might completely turn on its head in the coming hours.

"She's the one to beat," said one insider.

"But it is still an uphill battle, and she must win over more MEPs in the coming hours."

"Metsola is seen as a rising star in the EU parliament," said another.

"Since talk of her candidature started during summer, it feels like MEPs have shared a consensus that she might get the seat. She has garnered a lot of support over the past months."

Who are her rivals?

Metsola is the youngest of the three candidates and comes from the EU's smallest member state. That may affect her chances, sources said, even more so because her competitors have been in EU institutions for a long time. 

Karas is vice-president of the EU parliament and comes from the Austrian People's Party. That party is headed by right-winged leader Sebastian Kurz, but Karas is known to have been quite moderate during his tenure in the EU parliament. He was first elected to the EU parliament in 1999.

De Lange hails from the Christen Democratisch Appèl in the Netherlands and is the vice-chair of the EPP Group in the EU parliament. She was first elected in 2007.

Sources said it is still too early to gauge how much of a challenger de Lange will be to Metsola since she only confirmed her candidature on Monday morning.

However, they said she might not be the favourite candidate among MEPs coming from countries that want more funding from the EU, because her party has been historically tight-fisted when it comes to funding and spending.

On the other hand, de Lange may garner the support of some of the larger EU countries, like Germany. But the 42-year-old Maltese contender can rely on a broad network of support that cuts across political lines.

"Metsola may have an edge on the other two since she has good relationships with MEPs from different countries and parties, including with socialists," one insider said.

Last week Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba has said that he will be backing Roberta Metsola's bid for the presidency of the European Parliament. 

Greek MEP Eliza Vozemberg also tweeted her support for Metsola on Monday afternoon.

Metsola was elected vice-president of the EU parliament last January and over the past weeks she filled in for the current president, David Sassoli, while he recovers from an illness.

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