European Left elects little-known Walter Baier as lead candidate for June elections


Baier, the current party chairman with little European experience, was the only contender. He was elected in a closed assembly in Slovenia.

The European Left on Saturday elected Austrian Walter Baier as their spitzenkandidat or pick to lead the European Commission following the elections in June.

Baier, 70, who hails from the Austrian communist party, has been the group’s president since December 2022 but had, until then, little experience in European politics.

He defended his lack of European credentials at the group’s meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Saturday, telling reporters that “frankly speaking, Europe is not just Brussels.”

“Europe is 27 nations and hundreds of cities and millions of citizens. The European Left wants to be the voice of these people, whose voices are rarely heard in Brussels,” he said.

Despite being the group’s spitzenkandidat, Baier is not on any national list and will therefore not run for an MEP seat.

The party’s assembly, which unlike the other groups was held behind closed doors, also served to agree on a manifesto for the European elections scheduled to be held on June 6-9.

The Left has set five priorities for the upcoming campaign: civil rights, peace and democracy, the cost of living, the climate crisis and public services and social rights.

A difficult road to the European Commission

The lead candidate system, also known as the Spitzenkandidaten process, allows European parties to choose their leader for the European elections. If the party secures the highest number of seats, the candidate then becomes the top contender for the European Commission president job.

The incumbent, Ursula von der Leyen, is currently the one to beat after she announced earlier this week her wish to run for her second term. She is expected to be formally endorsed as the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) spitzenkandidat at the group’s conference in early March. The EPP is the biggest group in the hemicycle and is projected to remain so after the ballot.

The Greens have already picked Terry Reintke and Bas Eickhout as their leaders for the elections while the Social Democrats are expected to anoint Nicolas Schmit, the current European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, for the role at their meeting next week.

The Left’s chances of winning the leadership of the European Commission are very low.

The party is very divided going into the elections and although current projections by EU Elects, a poll aggregator, predict the group could up its number of seats from 37 to 42, a reshuffle of parties after the June plebiscite could actually see it lose of MEPs.

The newly created Spanish party Sumar, for instance, previously joined the ranks of the European Left-affiliated Podemos party but suggested recently that it could instead join the Greens.__Courtesy EuroNews