STRASBOURG, France – European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (search) called for a delay in Wednesday's vote on his embattled 24-member executive after it became increasingly clear the European Parliament (search) would veto the team, lawmakers said.
A negative vote would have thrown the European Union (search) into institutional turmoil and left the EU's head office without proper day-to-day management as of Monday.
"We are saying there will not be a vote today," said Johannes Swoboda, the Austrian vice-president of the Socialist group. "There will be another proposal" from Barroso that would lead to "a new commission with changes," he said.
It was unclear when the vote would be rescheduled. The current session ends Thursday and the next is the week of Nov. 15.
The European Union's 732-member assembly was to hold a roll call vote Wednesday on the new EU executive, but it looked doubtful Barroso had enough backing to get the simple majority he needs.
A majority of parties, including the Socialists, Greens and Communists who together can muster 283 votes, were threatening to veto Barroso's team because of strong opposition to Italy's Rocco Buttiglione, the proposed justice commissioner who called homosexuality a sin and has been criticized for his conservative views on women and marriage.
Lawmakers said Barroso asked for the delay after calculating he would lose the vote.
Socialist officials estimated 362 legislators would have voted against the commission, compared to 345 in favor.
"He's done the numbers and knows he doesn't have a majority," said Denmark's Jens Peter Bonde, co-leader of the euro-skeptic Independence and Democracy group.
Barroso was holding joint talks with the leaders of the three largest political factions, the center-right European People's Party, the Socialists and the Liberals.
According to Italian news reports Wednesday, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has been searching for a last-minute solution under pressure from Barroso.
One suggestion was that Buttiglione should step down, a move that the commissioner-designate has refused, newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Stampa reported.
Another option was to replace Buttiglione, an option that Berlusconi discussed with his allies Tuesday, Corriere said.
Possible replacements include Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, former economy minister Giulio Tremonti and former commissioner Emma Bonino.
Unlike other presidents, Barroso does not have the power to name his own cabinet, just to assign the portfolios to the candidates sent by their governments. He has shown his stubborn streak before, when he resisted pressure from Paris and Berlin to give high-profile economic jobs to their men.
EU lawmakers can only vote to accept or reject the entire team and not individual commissioners, and in the past the vote has been a routine procedure with little opposition. If the delay stretches beyond the weekend, outgoing Commission President Romano Prodi is expected to stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new one has been assembled.