EPP picks Germany's Weber as lead EU election candidate

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Delegates from Europe's EPP group of centre-right, conservative and Christian Democrat parties on Thursday chose German MEP Manfred Weber to lead them into next year's European election.

According to official results from the vote at the party's conference in Helsinki, Weber won the backing of 79.2 percent of delegates, easily beating former Finnish premier Alexander Stubb's 20 percent.

If the EPP remains the largest group in the European Parliament after the May election, Weber will be in a strong position to bid to take over from Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm.

However some polls are predicting that under pressure from populists on both left and right, the EPP could lose its crown.

Weber, who leads the EPP bloc in parliament, has presented himself as a moderate able to overcome divisions in the grouping, which has lost ground to populists against the backdrop of the European migration crisis.

The post of commission president -- held by an EPP candidate since 2004 -- is a key prize in the horse-trading of top jobs that will follow EU elections on May 26 next year.

Also in the mix are plum spots to lead the European Council -- which represents national governments -- the European Parliament, the European Central Bank, and the bloc's new foreign policy chief.

© 2018 AFP

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