The task of picking the five names that will hold the European Union's top jobs and guide its future has just become harder after European elections highlighted the deepening political fragmentation of the bloc.
The two largest centrist groups in the current European Parliament - the European Peoples' Party (EPP) to the right and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) on the left - will no longer hold a majority in the new 751-seat chamber.
Together, the two are expected to be down from 401 lawmakers to 332 seats in the next five-year European Parliament, short of the 376-vote majority needed to approve a new head of the bloc's executive European Commission.
"We are facing a shrinking centre," said Manfred Weber, the EPP's candidate to lead the Commission. "I don't see a majority against the liberals, I don't see a majority against the socialists, I don't see a majority against the EPP ... So what I would ask us to do to is to join our forces to work together from now."
The parliamentary arithmetic will be on the table when all 28 national EU leaders meet in Brussels on Tuesday to fight over who will lead the Commission, the parliament, the bloc's foreign policy and its central bank.
The fifth top post chairs EU summits.
These five people will help shape the bloc's responses to challenges from climate change to a resurgent Russia, manage complex ties with the US and China and take on cyber threats and tech regulation.
Talks between political groups start on Monday, with a liberal alliance boosted by votes cast in France for President Emmanuel Macron and the Greens.
But the picture was mixed, with the anti-immigration National Rally winning over Macron in France, their ally League emerging victorious in Italy, Hungary's ruling right-wing Fidesz party winning more than half of votes and Poland's ruling nationalists coming in ahead of the united opposition.
Other coalitions were also possible in the new chamber, which will sit from July 2nd, but would all have to bring together numerous partners to succeed.
Geographies, party politics, gender balance and the candidates' profiles all play a role in the obscure process to find a new leadership for the world's largest trading bloc of 500 million people. The European Parliament must then confirm the pick, with any protracted logjam leaving the EU in stasis.
Australian Associated Press