By Georgi Gotev | EurActiv.com with agencies
Tajani, a former Commissioner, is a member of the rightist Forza Italia party and a close ally of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Besides Tajani, three party MEPs were candidates in the “primary”: Former French minister Alain Lamassoure, Ireland’s Mairead McGuinness and Slovenia’s Alojz Peterle.
Tajani was seen as a controversial candidate among his other EPP contenders. He served as the European Commissioner for Transport and then for Industry under José Manuel Barroso, and questions have been raised about his implication in the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker runs the European Commission and Poland’s Donald Tusk chairs EU summits as president of the European Council. Both are EPP members.
Juncker has three years left in office, although his position has been weakened by Britain’s vote to leave the EU and by a failed plan to manage last year’s refugee crisis with mandatory quotas of refugees for member states.
The S&D, ending a decade-long alliance with the EPP, has presented its own candidate for the presidency, Gianni Pittella, an Italian lawmaker close to Italy’s most recent Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi.
Pittella said his aim was to reduce the appeal of growing anti-establishment movements that prosper by depicting moderate parties of all political hues as pursuing the same agenda.
He also said the grand coalition between the EPP and the Socialist & Democrats was over and could not be re-established,
A divided parliament may find it more difficult to pass legislation and such stalemate may strengthen eurosceptic parties such as Britain’s UKIP, France’s Front National and Italy’s Five Star movement.