Europe This Week: March 8, 2023

March 8, 2023

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in Europe, usually posted on Wednesdays and occasionally updated throughout the week.

The ruins of Tartu Cathedral in Tartu, Estonia. Estonia’s center-right Reform Party came in first place in the March 5 elections. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Ivar Lepidus (CC BY-SA 3.0 EE)

Upcoming Europe Elections

Montenegro Presidential Election: March 19, 2023

Montenegro holds a presidential election in March 2023. Parliamentary elections are due by August 2024, but snap polls are likely. 

The last elections, the fifth since independence from Serbia in 2006, took place in August 2020. Although the pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists, which has been in power for 30 years, won the most seats, they did not win a majority, and a coalition of opposition parties united to form a government, but that proved short-lived. Several other governments have risen and fallen, and the political situation remains unstable.

European Western Balkans (March 8, 2023): EP delegation will observe the presidential elections in Montenegro on 19 March

Samir Kajosevic and Sasa Dragojlo, Balkan Insight (March 7, 2023): Serbian Cameo Injects Fresh Uncertainty into Montenegrin Presidential Race

bne IntellliNews (March 2, 2023): Russian interference expected ahead of Montenegro’s presidential election

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.

Euractiv (March 8, 2023): Favourites to win upcoming Finnish election, neck-and-neck

Jari Tanner, AP (March 1, 2023): Finland’s Parliament gives final approval for NATO bid

RFI (March 1, 2023): Finland begins building fence on border with Russia as MPs vote to join NATO

Austria, State Elections in 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. 

Meanwhile, on March 5, Carinthia held state elections. While the Social Democrats (SPÖ) won, they lost ground.

Robert Semonsen, The European Conservative (March 9, 2023): Austrian Regional Election: SPÖ Maintains Control Over Carinthia: The election results mean that the ‘grand coalition’ between the SPÖ and the ÖVP will more than likely continue to rule in the region

Nikolaus J. Kurmayer, Euractiv (March 6, 2023): Austrian far-right fails to reclaim heartland in state election

Marton Elder, Bloomberg (March 5, 2023): Austria’s Socialists Lose Ground in Carinthia Regional Vote

AFP (March 4, 2023): Austria far-right eyes comeback under new hardline leader

Greece Parliamentary Elections: By July 2023

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.

Nektaria Stamouli, Politico (March 8, 2023): Mitsotakis faces Greece’s biggest protests since eurozone crisis: Tens of thousands took to the streets all over the country to protest the country’s worst train disaster

Sarantis Michalopoulos, Euractiv (March 7, 2023): Greek government now mulls elections in May

Eleni Varvitsioti, Financial Times (March 6, 2023): Greek prime minister under mounting pressure over handling of train crash

Slovakia Snap Parliamentary Elections: September 30, 2023

A center-right, broadly Atlanticist coalition unseated Slovakia’s left-wing populist government in 2020, but the coalition has had trouble staying together. The opposition has been pushing for snap elections and parliament has agreed to change the law to allow them to be held.

Geopolitical impact: If former PM Robert Fico wins the elections and gets back in office, he could change Slovakia’s position toward Ukraine. Slovakia currently backs Kyiv, but Fico opposes sending weapons and has become even more pro-Russia in his time out of office.

Reuters (March 7, 2023): Slovak prime minister starts new pro-Western party for Sept election

Past Europe Elections

Estonia Parliamentary Elections: March 5, 2023

Estonia’s center-right, pro-west Reform Party came in first place in the March 5 elections, and will likely be able to form a coalition to keep the current prime minister, Kaja Kallas, in power. 

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. 

Euronews (March 7, 2023 – video): Estonia’s centre-right Reform Party comes first in parliamentary election

Charlie Duxbury, Politico (March 6, 2023): Estonia’s incumbent leader Kaja Kallas on course for election win

Marie Jourdain, Atlantic Council (March 6, 2023): Five takeaways from the Estonian elections, where security trumped inflation by a landslide

Lithuania Local Elections; March 5, 2023

BNN (March 6, 2023): Lithuanian municipal elections are over; in some places the second round is ahead

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.  

The Guardian (March 5, 2023): Meloni’s nemesis or Italy’s Corbyn? Elly Schlein raises PD hopes and fears

Nicholas Farrell, The Spectator (March 4, 2023): How Giorgia Meloni is remaking Europe

Lorenzo Zamponi, Jacobin (March 3, 2023): Elly Schlein Will Tilt Italy’s Democrats to the Left, but Don’t Expect Revolutionary Change

Gregorio Sorgi, Politico (March 2, 2023): Why Elly Schlein is freaking out Italy’s ‘soft’ socialists: The newly elected leader of Italy’s social democrats is stirring up opposition — in her own party and beyond

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.

AP (March 8, 2023): Czech President Milos Zeman leaves, opponents celebrate

Ladislav Charouz, CEPA (March 8, 2023): Prague Prepares for President Petr Pavel: On March 9, Petr Pavel will be inaugurated as President and will begin a momentous shift in Czech foreign policy

Daniel McVicar, Jamestown Foundation (March 8, 2023): What the Election of Czech President Petr Pavel Portends for Sino-EU Relations

AI in Politics

Leo Sands, Washington Post (March 2, 2023): This government aide says it knows what voters want. It’s an AI bot.

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2023

Several European countries hold elections that determine who runs the government: Cyprus (fun fact: Cyprus is the EU’s only full presidential system), Monaco, Estonia, Andorra, Finland, Greece, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Poland, and Spain.

In addition, Montenegro and Slovakia appear on track to hold snap elections. And Bulgaria could hold its fourth general election in three years.

Moreover, a number of other countries in Europe could hold snap elections at short notice – it happens.

Netherlands Provincial Council and Water Authority Elections: March 15, 2023

Montenegro Presidential Election: March 19, 2023 (snap parliamentary elections possible)

Finland General Elections: April 2, 2023

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

Andorra Parliamentary Elections: April 2, 2023

Austria, Salzburg State Elections: April 23, 2023

Kosovo Partial Local Elections: April 23, 2023

United Kingdom, Local Elections in Some Parts of England: May 4, 2023

Albania Local Elections: May 14, 2023

Germany, Bremen State Elections and Local Elections in Schleswig-Holstein: May 14, 2023

United Kingdom, Local Elections in Northern Ireland: May 18, 2023

Spain Local Elections and Various Regional Elections: May 28, 2023

Latvia Indirect Presidential Election (by parliament): May 2023 (due)

Greece Local Elections: May 2023 (due)

Luxembourg Local Elections: June 11, 2023

Spain, Regional Elections in Various Regions: June 25, 2023

Greece Parliamentary Elections: July 2023 (due)

Norway Local Elections: September 11, 2023

Slovakia Snap Parliamentary Elections: September 30, 2023 (proposed – requires parliament to change constitution to allow)

Germany, Hesse and Bavaria State Elections: October 8, 2023

Luxembourg General Elections: October 8, 2023

Switzerland Federal Parliamentary Elections: October 22, 2023

Bulgaria Local Elections: October 2023 (due)

Finland, Åland Elections: October 2023 (due)

Portugal, Regional Elections in Madeira: October 2023 (due)

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

Spain General Elections: December 10, 2023 (due – early elections possible)

Switzerland Indirect Presidential Election (by parliament): December 12, 2023

Andorra Local Elections: December 2023 (due)

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