Maltese lawmaker elected EU parliament chief

Maltese lawmaker elected EU parliament chief

Maltese lawmaker elected EU parliament chief

EU lawmakers on Jan. 18 chose center-right Maltese politician Roberta Metsola the new head of the European Parliament, despite controversy over her anti-abortion stance.

Metsola, a member of the largest bloc, the European People’s Party, won a large majority with 458 votes to become the third woman to head the chamber after a deal between the leading political groupings.

Her election comes a week after the shock death of outgoing center-left parliament president David Sassoli, who was due to step down as part of the power-sharing pact.

MEPs applauded and sang “Happy Birthday” as Metsola scooped the top job on the day she turned 43, becoming the youngest ever head of the legislature.

“In the next years, people across Europe will look to our institution for leadership and direction, while others will continue to test the limits of our democratic values and European principles,” Metsola said in her acceptance speech.

The mother-of-four styles herself as a pro-LGBTQ progressive and champion of women’s rights, but her tough stance over abortion has drawn criticism from opponents.

The presidency of the European Parliament is one of the top jobs in the EU’s hierarchy, but the chamber is often accused by its critics of lacking real power.

EU executive chief Ursula von der Leyen offered her “warmest congrats” to Metsola. “As the 3rd woman to head this noble house, your hard work and determination are an inspiration to us all,” she wrote on Twitter.