Europe This Week: February 15, 2023

February 15, 2023

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in Europe, usually posted on Wednesdays and occasionally updated throughout the week.A street in Berlin, Germany. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Gryffindor (public domain)

Upcoming Europe Elections

Estonia Parliamentary Elections: March 5, 2023

Since January 2021, Estonia’s government has been a grand coalition of the center-right Reform Party and the centrist Centre Party, which has historically been supported by Estonia’s Russian community. Following the 2019 elections, Centre shocked the country by forming a government with the far-right EKRE, but PM Juri Ratas was forced to resign in January 2021 following a real estate scandal. Subsequently, Reform – previously in opposition – formed a coalition with Centre as the junior partner, making Reform’s Kaja Kallas Estonia’s first female prime minister. 

However, in June 2022, Centre withdrew from the government. Kallas must now find more coalition partners in order to prevent the government from collapsing, which would trigger early elections.

This is all happening in the context of major security concerns. Because Estonia is a poster child for a successful post-communist transition to democracy, Russia has for a long time targeted the country with cyberattacks and other provocations. In the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, security concerns are at the top of Estonians’ minds. More

Andrew Whyte, ERR News (February 11, 2023): How does Estonia’s Riigikogu electoral system work?

Austria, State Elections in Carinthia: March 5, 2023 and Salzburg: April 23, 2023

The center-right ÖVP lost its absolute majority in the January 29 state election in Lower Austria – an ÖVP stronghold – as right-wing populist FPÖ made gains.

This is a bad omen for ÖVP (which currently heads the federal government in coalition with the Greens) ahead of general elections next year. Lower Austria is an ÖVP stronghold, and the home region of many of the party’s leaders. 

Nikolaus J. Kurmayer, Euractiv (February 13, 2023): Austria’s conservatives out of options

Stephanie Liechtenstein, AP (February 12, 2023): Neutral Austria under pressure to get tougher on Russia

Finland General Elections: April 2, 2023

Finland’s general elections are taking place in the context of its bid to join NATO after ending a long-standing policy of neutrality. Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats are behind the center-right National Coalition Party in the polls. While Marin remains popular with voters, many Finns are concerned about the country’s rising debt.

Charlie Duxbury, Politico (February 13, 2023): Finns don’t love Sanna Marin as much as you do: Finland’s prime minister remains popular with voters, but her Social Democrats are trailing their main rival ahead of April 2 election.

Anne Kauranen and Essi Lehto, Reuters (February 10, 2023): Finland debates NATO ratification that may leave Sweden behind

Bulgaria Snap Parliamentary Elections: April 2, 2023 (fifth election in two years)

Balkan Insight (February 14, 2023): Two New Parties Join Bulgaria’s Turbulent Election Contest

SeeNews (February 9, 2023): Formation of stable govt vital for Bulgaria’s eurozone entry

Albania Local Elections: May 14, 2023

Alice Taylor, (February 14, 2023): Albanian opposition holds second anti-government protest in Tirana

Fjori Sinoruka, Balkan Insight (February 14, 2023): Concerns Raised in Albania over Ruling Party ‘Communications’ App

United Kingdom, Local Elections in Some Parts of England: May 4, 2023, followed by general elections due in 2024

Reuters (February 15, 2023): UK Labour leader: Jeremy Corbyn will not be a Labour candidate in next elections


AP (February 15, 2023): Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to leave post after 8 years

Henry Hill, Unherd (February 15, 2023): How Scotland fell out of love with Nicola Sturgeon

The Spectator (February 15, 2023): Why Nicola Sturgeon had to go

Northern Ireland

Jude Webber, Financial Times (February 14, 2023): Northern Ireland’s Stormont assembly fails to elect speaker for sixth time: DUP blocks move and sinks bid to use session to pass organ donor legislation

Shawn Pogatchnik, Politico (February 9, 2023): UK concedes reality of Northern Ireland deadlock, shifts election ‘deadline’ to 2024

Amanda Ferguson and Conor Humphries, Reuters (February 10, 2023): Northern Ireland unionists face historic choice as EU, UK near protocol deal

Greece Parliamentary Elections: Local Elections: May 2023 (due) and July 2023 (due)

Greece is due to hold parliamentary elections by July 2023, but earlier elections are possible. The incumbent center-right government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his center-right New Democracy is facing a number of challenges, including a scandal involving domestic surveillance of political opponents.

George Parker, Eleni Varvitsioti, and James Pickford, Financial Times (February 10, 2023): Inside the secret meetings that could seal the fate of the Parthenon Marbles

AFP (February 10, 2023): Greeks put politics aside to rush aid to Turkey

Reuters (February 9, 2023): Greece bans parties with convicted leaders from running in elections

Germany, Bremen State Elections and Local Elections in Schleswig-Holstein: May 14, 2023followed by other state elections later this year, and following February 12 Berlin state election re-run

Berlin held a re-run of its 2021 state elections, which were marred by numerous problems. Although Berlin has been governed by the left for more than 20 years, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) came in first place. However, they might not be able to form a government as other parties have said they would not go into coalition with CDU. Therefore, the current “red-green-red” coalition of the Social Democrats, Greens, and the Left could continue in government.

Other state elections are due later this year, and the next federal elections are due by October 2025.


AP (February 12, 2023): East Germany’s Last Communist Leader Dies at 95


Ben Knight, DW (February 13, 2023): Berlin election win boosts German conservatives

NPR (February 13, 2023): Many Berliners say repeat elections are a sign of the city’s deeper dysfunction

Matthew Tempest, EU Observer (February 10, 2023): Is EU’s most leftwing capital about to go Conservative?

Poland Parliamentary and Local Elections: November 11, 2023 (due – earlier elections possible)

Aitor Hernández-Morales and Jan Cienski, Politico (February 15, 2023): Warsaw mayor’s dilemma: Getting EU cash would boost the government he’s fighting

Aleks Szczerbiak, Notes from Poland (February 9, 2023): Can Poland’s right-wing ruling party win this year’s parliamentary election?

Past Europe Elections

Italy, Lazio and Lombardy Regional Elections: February 12, 2023

Italy’s regions of Lazio (centered on Rome) and Lombardy (centered on Milan) held elections on February 12. These come on the heels of last year’s general elections, which brought right-wing Prime Minister Georgia Meloni to power.

Meloni’s conservatives won both regions, defeating the incumbent center-left in Lazio and maintaining dominance in Lombardy.  

Gregorio Sorgi, Politico (February 13, 2023): Italy regional elections: Right-wing coalition wins landslide victory

Rachel Donadio, The Atlantic (February 12, 2023): Can Georgia Meloni govern Italy?

Cyprus Presidential Runoff: February 12, 2023

Former foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides defeated career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis in Cyprus’s presidential runoff. 

Andria Kades at Cyprus Mail notes: “For the first time in Cyprus’ political history, the two biggest parties of the country have failed to get their preferred presidential candidate elected to power, marking the diminishing power Akel and Disy are currently faced with, according to elections expert Yiannis Mavris.”

Andria Kades, Cyprus Mail (February 14, 2023): Biggest election losers? Cyprus’ largest parties

Euractiv (February 13, 2023): Centrist candidate wins Cypriot elections, EU family still pending

Reuters (February 13, 2023): Cyprus president-elect ready to meet Turk Cypriot leader-office

AP (February 12, 2023): Veteran diplomat Mavroyiannis concedes defeat to ex-minister Christoulides in Cyprus presidential election

Czech Republic Presidential Runoff: January 27-28, 2023

Retired general Petr Pavel defeated controversial former prime minister Andrej Babiš in the Czech Republic’s presidential runoff in January. Incumbent Milos Zeman, who has been in power for 10 years and did not run for re-election, built closer ties with Russia and China.

Pavel, a former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, favors pro-West policies, while populist Babiš has criticized support for Ukraine and the EU more generally.

CEPA (February 10, 2023): The Czech Republic’s Flannel Revolution: The election heralds a more moderate and Atlanticist course

Regional News and Analysis

David Mac Dougall, Euronews (February 15, 2023): Can ‘earthquake diplomacy’ help NATO membership chances for Sweden and Finland?

Maïthé Chini, Brussels Times (February 14, 2023): EU moves to open electoral participation to residents from other Member States

James Billot, Unherd (February 14, 2023): Elections in Europe: Olaf Scholz humiliated, Giorgia Meloni soars

Anchal Vohra, Foreign Policy (February 13, 2023): The Race Is on to Be NATO’S Next Chief

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