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Hot race for unseen Europarliament post

Quick. Name the president of the European Parliament. You can't? Well, neither can most of the 260 million Europeans who elected the 434 members of the assembly she heads.

Yet despite its obscurity, a long line is forming for her job.

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The president is Simone Veil, a former French government minister, who has held the post for 21/2 years. When she steps down from office in two months, she will leave a vacancy that will be filled by someone seeking no notoriety, little prestige, and even less political clout.

Already maneuvering for position for next January's election are two declared and several undeclared candidates.

The two job-seekers already announced are Egon Klepsch of West Germany, who heads the second-largest of the Parliament's eight political groups, the European People's Party (Christian Democrats), and Sir James Scott-Hopkins, a British Conservative, who heads the third-largest group, the European Democrats.

Others likely to throw in their hats between now and the end of the year are Dutch Socialist Pieter Dankart and former Belgian premier Leo Tindemans. Former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt may join them.

Observers say that January's election could run through three or four bitterly fought ballots. An absolute majority of votes is needed for victory.

''Considering how invisible the office really is,'' said a French journalist who has been covering the Parliament for a decade, ''the scramble to fill it could cause waves in Strasbourg.''

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