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Polling 298 votes, compared with 237 for his PES challenger, Scotland's David Martin, Pat Cox, had to wait for the third round of voting and almost seven hours of a seemingly endless session interspersed with furious behind-the-scenes bargaining on January 16 in Strasbourg, under the chair of the father of the house, Mario Soares (PES, Portugal), before finally securing the Presidency of the European Parliament. The President of the EDD group, Denmark's Jens Peter Bonde, remained in the race until the bitter end, securing 33 votes in the final round following a total of 76 in the second. This is not the first time that the representative of a small country has risen to this high office - Piet Dankert of the Netherlands preceded Mr Cox in 1982 -, nor that a member of a minority group has secured an absolute majority - the French Liberal Simone Veil was elected in the second round in 1979. It is however on this dual message that the Irish Liberal conducted his campaign, winning backing beyond his natural ELDR/EPP power base. In his acceptance speech, Mr Cox spoke in his mother tongue, Gaelic, to reaffirm his "conviction that cultural diversity and pluralism are the sine qua non conditions for building the Europe" for which he has been mandated by the Assembly."The decision to choose me demonstrates that citizens on the periphery of the EU can be entrusted with leading responsibilities", Cox said, delighted that he has become an electoral issue in his native land, which is still grappling with the consequences of the "no" vote in the referendum called to decide whether to ratify the Nice Treaty. The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern sent a message of congratulations to his compatriot, a political opponent, stressing that the election "shows that small nations have a key to play in Europe and may exert significant influence on the European institutions."Green split.Working on the principle that "small is beautiful", Mr Cox also succeeded in portraying himself as a reformer. In his first round speech, he pledged to "introduce a culture of renewal", adding that "those banking on reform, equal access for all groups to parliamentary prerogatives and responsibilities will come to regret any vote for a candidate from a large group", thus cutting the ground under the feet of his principal challenger, David Martin, who, in his introductory address, stuck to the principle of consensus: "Whatever the result, we all know that the real winner is the European Parliament". Jens Peter Bonde meanwhile fielded the reforming ball served up by the ELDR candidate: "Any vote for me will be a clear signal to Messrs Cox and Martin to limit their ambitions to enlargement and internal reform". Likewise a reforming candidate, but well aware that he was only there to make up the numbers, with rumours of the disunity of his group in the second round already rife, the Green candidate, French MEP Gerard Onesta, urged his colleagues to show responsibility: "We were elected on the basis of a Treaty and will perhaps conclude the legislature with a Constitution: Parliament must be worthy of this qualitative leap".European United Left candidate, Francis Wurtz had no illusions about his fate. But he seemed concerned most of all about the divisions amongst the left-wing groups, which his PES ally apparently failed to grasp. "I appreciate Mr Cox as a human being as fortunately there is more to life than politics. However, I have to say that he cannot count on our support. I am surprised and dismayed to note the attitude of those who have no qualms about conducting a progressive campaign during the first round only to give their support to a right-wing candidate in the second round, who is dubbed as a candidate from a tiny nation to suit the occasion," he said in a clear reference to the behaviour of the Green.Pat Cox secured 254 votes in the first round, David Martin 184, Gerard Onesta 37, Francis W?rtz 42 and Jens Peter Bonde 66. The EDD group having just 18 MEPs, the return achieved by its President was the first surprise of the vote, along with the...

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