The European Parliament elects a new speaker in an unusually hotly contested vote, with the European liberal party ALDE withdrawing its candidate and backing the centre-right favourite, seeking a new pro-EU coalition. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Italian conservative Antonio Tajani established a strong lead in a first round of voting for European Parliament president on Tuesday (17 January) following a coalition deal with the liberals. Tajani won 274 of the 683 valid votes cast, opening up a strong lead over centre-left candidate and fellow Italian Gianni Pittella who had 183. Four other candidates had scores between 43 and 77. If no candidate in the 751-seat chamber has a majority after two afternoon ballots, the top two will contest a decisive fourth round on Tuesday evening. The last-minute withdrawal of centrist Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister, before voting began, strengthened the hand of Tajani and underlined how mainstream, pro-EU parties are trying to keep a grip against a vocal euroskeptic minority. The European Parliament is a key player in approving European Union legislation, part of a triumvirate with the executive European Commission and the European Council of member states.