Europe This Week: March 22, 2023

March 22, 2023

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

The Korouma nature reserve near Posio, Finland, in Lapland. Photo credit: Wikimedia/kallerna (public domain)

Upcoming Europe Elections

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.

Essi Lehto, Reuters (March 21, 2023): Finland’s right-wing opposition leads in poll ahead of April 2 election

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

Euractiv with AFP (March 22, 2023): ‘Guns and Roses’: Bulgaria arms trade booms on Ukraine war

Euronews and AP and AFP (March 21, 2023): Bulgaria’s President says his country will not supply arms for Ukraine until after April 2 elections

CEPA (March 21, 2023): Stalemate in Bulgaria? Perhaps Not

Montenegro Presidential Runoff: April 2, 2023 and Snap Parliamentary Elections: June 11, 2023

Montenegro holds a presidential runofff on April 2, following the first round of the election on March 19. Incumbent Milo Djukanovic, who has been president or PM for 33 years, will face former economy minister Jakov Milatovic.

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.

OSCE (March 20, 2023): Montenegro’s presidential election competitive but negatively affected by an uninclusive process and legal shortcomings, international observers say

Luka Ignac and Kevin Morris, Atlantic Council (March 17, 2023): Montenegro’s presidential election is a litmus test of Russian influence in the Western Balkans

RFE/RL (March 17, 2023): Amid Turmoil, Montenegrin President Sets June 11 For Early Parliamentary Elections

Kosovo Partial Local Elections: April 23, 2023

Alice Taylor, Euractiv (March 21, 2023): Serbian List confirms boycott of local elections in Kosovo

RFE/RL (March 19, 2023): Despite ‘Difficult’ Talks, Kosovo And Serbia Reach Agreement On Normalizing Ties

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.

Euractiv (March 20, 2023): Austria’s conservatives team up with far-right, again

Albania Local Elections: May 14, 2023

bne IntelliNews (March 23, 2023): Opposition rift leaves way clear for another Socialist victory in Albania’s local elections

Fjori Sinoruka, Balkan Insight (March 16, 2023): Albania Lifts Bar on Democratic Party Running in Elections

Alice Taylor, Euractiv (March 16, 2023): Albanian opposition faction registers coalition for local elections

Latvia Indirect Presidential Election (by parliament): May 31, 2023

Latvian Public Broadcasting (March 21, 2023): How will Latvia’s President be chosen on May 31?

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 and a train crash that killed dozens of people.

AFP (March 21, 2023): Greek prime minister announces general elections in May after rail disaster

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.

Balkan Insight (March 20, 2023): With his new party, Slovak PM embarks on a mission to unify

Reuters (March 17, 2023): Slovakia sends MIG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine – PM

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

Piotr Skolimowski, Bloomberg (March 20, 2023): Polish Opposition Risks Election Loss Over Divisions, Poll Shows

AP (March 16, 2023): Poland to be 1st NATO member to give Ukraine fighter jets

Daniel Tilles, Notes from Poland (March 15, 2023): Papal dispute highlights why Polish opposition may win power but will struggle to govern

DW (March 15, 2023): Poland: John Paul II abuse cover-up claims divide a nation

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

Joseph Wilson, AP (March 22, 2023): Spain’s Vox party fails in government no-confidence motion: Spain’s parliament has dismissed an attempt by the far-right Vox party to topple the governing leftist coalition

Reuters (March 17, 2023): Spain’s Socialists extend lead in CIS poll, trail in others

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

Last month, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suddenly announced that she was stepping down. This triggered a leadership contest in her governing Scottish Nationalist Party, and the new leader of the party will then succeed her as First Minister. Voting has begun, and results will be announced on March 27. 

Even though voters rejected Scottish independence in a 2014 referendum, the SNP has been demanding a new referendum.

Jamie Maxwell, Jacobin (March 22, 2023): Without Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party Is Facing an Identity Crisis

Jill Lawess, AP (March 19, 2023): Scottish independence at crossroads in testy SNP leader race

Lukanyo Mnyanda and Mure Dickie, Financial Times (March 17, 2023): Path to independence ‘starts with respect’ for unionists, says SNP leadership candidate: Kate Forbes has the greatest appeal among the Scottish public but party heavyweights back her main rival

Past Europe Elections

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

Bart H. Meijer at Reuters notes: “The meteoric rise of BBB is a major blow for Rutte’s governing coalition, casting doubt over its aim to drastically cut nitrogen pollution on farms, the single issue upon which BBB was founded in 2019…Rutte’s government, in its fourth consecutive term since 2010, has dropped to a 20 percent approval rating, its lowest in a decade.”

Stan Veuger, Foreign Policy (March 20, 2023): The Netherlands’ Eternal Prime Minister Survives Another Populist Wave

Quartz (March 16, 2023): How a Dutch party born out of farmers’ protests won big in the Senate election: BBB was created in 2019 following protests against the government’s plan to cut agricultural emissions

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. 

Stuart Lau, Politico (March 17, 2023): In Estonia, backing Ukraine isn’t controversial … but gay marriage is: PM Kaja Kallas has invited two liberal parties for coalition talks, potentially opening the way for same-sex marriage to become law.

France Elections: 2022

France held presidential and legislative elections in 2022. Emmanuel Macron was re-elected president, defeating right-wing Marine Le Pen by a significant margin.

Antoinette Radford and Jasmine Andersson, BBC (March 21, 2023): France pension reform: Macron’s government survives no-confidence vote

John Lichfield, Politico (March 18, 2023): Has Emmanuel Macron broken France?

Jenni Reid, CNBC (March 17, 2023): Macron enrages France by forcing through pension bill with no vote. But few think he’ll be forced out

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.

Finland General Elections: April 2, 2023

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

Andorra Parliamentary Elections: April 2, 2023

Montenegro Presidential Runoff: April 2, 2023

Switzerland, Cantonal Elections in Geneva, Ticino, and Lucerne: April 2, 2023

Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia Regional and Local Elections: April 2-3, 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 31, 2023

Greece Local Elections: May 2023 (due)

Montenegro Snap Parliamentary Elections: June 11, 2023

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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