EU’s Von der Leyen Says She’s ‘Confident’ of Retaining Post as Voting Begins

(Bloomberg) -- The most prominent official in the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, is bullish about her chances to be re-appointed as president of the bloc’s executive arm as polls begin to open across the bloc.

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“I am confident that I have the support of many leaders, they know me and they know my experience,” she told several reporters in Porto, Portugal, on Thursday evening after one of her last campaign events.

The Netherlands voted Thursday, with polls open on Friday in Ireland and the Czech Republic. The bulk of the EU votes on Sunday.

“There is strong unity within the European People’s Party at all levels, from EUCO to the European Parliament, which is the first building block for a broad coalition for a strong Europe,” she added, using the acronym for the European Council, which comprises the bloc’s 27 heads of state or government.

Von der Leyen, whose EPP is expected to win the most seats in the EU Parliament, is the front-runner for the European Commission post, according to EU diplomats and officials.

EU member states must agree on a candidate, who then needs to be confirmed by the parliament. Her path, however, won’t be smooth, with leaders like French president Emmanuel Macron having sounded out his counterparts on possible alternatives.

The incumbent president will also face a difficult confirmation vote in the parliament, which could be scheduled as early as July, because she would likely need the support of far-right parties or the Greens, who did not vote for her five years ago. Although climate-related policies were among her top priorities under the Green Deal, her decision to scrap several proposals to placate protesting farmers angered many Green lawmakers.

“After the elections, I want to build a broad coalition for a strong Europe,” she said. “To do so, I am open to work will all members of parliament who are pro-Europe, pro-Ukraine and pro-rule of law.”

Von der Leyen has been touring Europe over the last week, visiting around 15 member states and more that 20 cities. Issues like defense and security were prominent in nations bordering Russia, like Finland, while other themes such as the economy were front and center in places like Portugal.

Some of her events, including in Porto, were disrupted by pro-Palestine demonstrators. The former German defense minister was criticized last fall for rushing to support Israel’s actions in Gaza in the immediate aftermath of the deadly attacks in October by Hamas militants.

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