18. März 2014
The current European Parliament president and European Social Democrat Party’s election front runner, Martin Schulz, has converted his parliamentary Twitter account into a campaign weapon.
Twitter account renamed
The current European Parliament president, Martin Schulz was named as the Social Democrat Party’s front runner for the coming European Parliament elections in May.
To boost his election campaign, Schulz had an innovative idea: he renamed his parliamentary presidential Twitter account in order to be able to use it during the election campaign.
80,000 followers overnight
The original profile describing Mr Schulz as “President of the European Parliament” was changed to “I am the @PES_PSE candidate for President of the @EU_Commission in #EP2014″. Even the profile background was changed to display the party’s colour red, instead of the EU colours.
The result of these changes is that overnight the social democrat front runner suddenly had around 80,000 followers. These followers were originally interested in the receiving messages from the European Parliament president. But now, to continue receiving these messages, the followers are forced to view a new account.
European Parliament president should decide
Representatives from other parties in the European Parliament expressed concern in an open letter about the account change. Some candidates have also called for Schulz to drop his duties as European Parliament president in order to maintain the neutrality of the election campaign. Ultimately, as top PES/PSE candidate, Schulz is in the running to become European Commission president. However, Schulz has rejected this argument.
Nevertheless, the question remains whether Schulz can truly represent the Members of Parliament when they are his competition and whether he can use his dual position to exercise unreasonable influence on voters.
Officer holders are required during election campaigns to maintain neutrality. This derives from the basic principle of freedom and equality of elections and also applies to EU officials.
Article 39(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union provides that: “Members of the European Parliament shall be elected by direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot.”
These electoral principles can only be observed when public officials’ statements and behaviour do not influence voters to turn to a party. Incumbent officials should therefore not represent, either secretly or openly, a party.
However, if a public official does become active in an election campaign, a strict division between official activities and electoral activities must be made.
The sudden change of an account between an official function to that of a politician in an election campaign represents a merging and not division of such positions. It makes no difference that a second account has been created. For the followers, any division is no longer recognisable.
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