European Parliament elects conservative Roberta Metsola
The European Union's 705-seat legislature on Tuesday elected Maltese conservative Roberta Metsola as its new president.
Metsola has been acting president since the death last Tuesday of her predecessor David Sassoli, to whom she was vice president.
She was elected with a clear majority of 458 out of 616 ballots cast.
The timing of the elected had nothing to do with Sassoli's death. He had been due to leave at the end of January anyway — after two-and-a-half years in post — under a power-sharing deal.
Who is the new president?
At the age of 43, Metsola is the youngest person in the history of the legislature to hold the post and the first woman in 20 years.
She comes from the European People's Party (EPP) faction, whereas Sassoli was a member of the center-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) political grouping.
A mother-of-four, her strong opposition to abortion has drawn criticism from opponents.
She has been a member of the European Parliament since 2013. As a member of the Nationalist Party, she has been active since her youth having campaigned as a student for Malta to become a member of the EU.
As President of the European Parliament, she will direct the activities of the legislature's plenary sessions, and maintain order during sittings. The president also gives the floor to speakers, signs laws, and customarily speaks at the opening of EU summits.
The Greens, the Left and the national-conservative European Conservative and Reformist factions also presented candidates. However, as the EPP's choice, Metsola had been considered the frontrunner.
The parliament has had only two previous female presidents, Simone Veil and Nicole Fontaine, both French, since it became a directly elected assembly in 1979.
Agreement to hand over
Sassoli passed away at the age of 65 after several months of poor health. He had been a member of the EU assembly for more than 10 years, having switched from journalism to politics with the center-left Democratic Party.
He was unexpectedly elected in 2019 with the support of two major political groupings — the S&D and the EPP, as well as liberal members.
Sassoli and the groups had reached an agreement for him to hand over the post to someone from the EPP halfway through his term.
The parliament on Monday honored Sassoli at a plenary session in the French city Strasbourg on Monday, with fellow parliamentarians holding a minute's silence.
Italy honoured him with a state funeral in Rome.