Europe

October 23, 2019

Each day, 21votes gathers election news, analysis, and opinions from a different region of the world. We explore Europe on Wednesdays. Click the map pins.

Germany Thuringia State Parliament – October 27, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: Germany – 80.5 million; Thuringia – 2.2 million

Germany has a federal system with 16 Länder (states) that each have their own constitution, parliament (Landtag) and state government. The states have autonomy over internal policy, but do not have their own tax authority, and political parties are quite centralized at the federal level.

Three states in the east hold elections this year: Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia, in polls that are seen as an important test for Angela Merkel’s coalition government. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been projected to do well in all three state elections in the east this year. AfD won the most votes in Brandenburg in the European Parliament elections this year. It beat CDU in Saxony, and came close in Thuringia.

However, AfD did not manage to win either the Saxony or Brandenburg election, although it did make gains and place second in both states. Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) maintained its position as the biggest party in Saxony and the center-left center-left Social Democrats (SPD) held onto first place in Brandenburg.

Thuriginia will be an important contest. The AfD leader there, Björn Höcke, is seen as one of the most extreme figures in the party.

Bulgaria Local – October 27, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 7.1 million

In the European elections in May, both the governing center-right GERB party and the main opposition Socialist Party ran on a pro-European platform, despite some members of both parties wanting to take a more Eurosceptic tone. As a result, GERB won, followed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The Volya party, which partners with Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament, did not win any seats. However, turnout was very low – 30 percent. Bulgaria is beginning to emerge from a long stretch of chaotic politics characterized by a series of early elections and caretaker governments, but a number of problems remain.

The two biggest parties – GERB and the BSP – are both fielding female candidates for mayor of Sofia, the capital. Incumbent Yordanka Fandakova from GERB is running for another term, and the Socialists have endorsed former ombudsman Maya Manolova, who used to be a former BSP member of parliament.

Spain Snap Parliamentary – November 10, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Population: 49.3 million

Spain is headed for its fourth election in four years following Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s failure to form a coalition government. The incumbent Socialists won the April snap elections, which Sánchez called after failing to pass a budget. The far-right Vox won seats, the first time the far-right has been in parliament since Spain became a democracy (Vox also won seats in Andalusia’s regional elections in December, the first time for the far-right to enter any Spanish legislative body in the history of Spanish democracy).

Romania Presidential – November 10, 2019 and Local – Expected June 2020 (Snap parliamentary possible)

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Semi-Presidential Republic
Population: 21.5 million

Since communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu fell in 1989, Romania has become a free democracy but politics are volatile – the office of the prime minister has changed hands eight times since 2014. Corruption and weak rule of law remain serious problems. Liviu Dragnea, head of the governing left-wing Social Democratic Party (PSD), is currently in prison for abuse of power. PSD only got 23 percent of votes in the May 2019 European Parliament election, half of the support it had in the 2016 parliamentary elections. The 2014 presidential elections handed a surprise victory to Klaus Iohannis, the center-right mayor of Sibiu in Transylvania, who defeated then-Prime Minister Victor Ponta in the runoff. Iohannis plans to run for a second term.

Ireland Parliamentary By-Elections – November 19, 2019 (expected) and Snap Parliamentary – May 2020 (expected - could be earlier)

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 5.1 million

The last elections for the Dáil Éireann (parliament) took place in February 2016, and the next elections are due by April 2021, although there has been speculation that Ireland will have snap elections, possibly in May 2020. The two biggest parties are the center-right Fine Gael, currently in government, and the centrist Fianna Fáil, which has a confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael. Other parties include the left-wing Sinn Féin, the political arm of the infamous Irish Republican Army (IRA), and various other smaller center-left and left-wing parties.

The by-elections will fill four seats vacated when the incumbents won seats to the European Parliament in May. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil each held one of the seats up for grabs in the by-elections, and the remaining two were Independents 4 Change, a left-wing and green political group.

France Municipal – March 15-22, 2020

Freedom House Rating: Free 
Government Type: Semi-Presidential Republic
Population: 67.4 million

France’s 2017 presidential election saw the collapse of the two political parties that had historically dominated French politics – François Hollande’s Socialists and Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans (formerly the Union for a Popular Movement – UMP). Neither party’s candidate made it to the final round. Instead, right-wing populist Marine Le Pen from the Front National (now called National Rally) lost to centrist Emmanuel Macron, whose newly-formed La République en Marche! (LREM) pulled together a combination of figures from the right and the left. In the legislative elections soon after, LREM won a majority.

French municipal elections happen every six years. Voters will elect councils in France’s 36,000+ communes, which are towns or cities (anything from a tiny village to Paris itself). During the 2014 municipal elections, the Socialists took heavy losses, and the center-right made big gains, with the far-right also making some gains, winning control of 11 towns. However, the Socialists held onto Paris in a close election – Anne Hidalgo beat UMP’s Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet in the second round to become Paris’s first female mayor (Kosciusko-Morizet had won more votes in the first round). Hidalgo is expected to run for another term. The other parties are currently in the process of selecting their candidates.

North Macedonia Snap Parliamentary - April 12, 2020

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic 
Population: 2.1 million

In June 2018, Greece and North Macedonia signed the historic Prespa Agreement, by which Macedonia would change its name to North Macedonia in exchange for Greece supporting the country’s membership in NATO and the EU, ending a dispute over the country’s name since its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 (Greece said that using the name “Macedonia” implied irredentist claims over parts of Greece).

New York Times correspondent Alexsander Dimishkovski notes: “Macedonia, a small, landlocked Balkan country of two million, transformed from a fragile but promising democracy to an authoritarian state under Nikola Gruevski, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2016. During the period, the country witnessed a degradation in the rights of the news media, a heavily biased judiciary system, rampant corruption and abuses of power.”

Slovakia Parliamentary – February or March 2020

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 5.4 million

Slovakia’s politics could be headed for a change following the murder a year ago of journalist Jan Kuciak, who was investigating the ties between the ruling left-wing populist Smer-SD party and organized crime. In June 2019, Zuzana Čaputová, a co-founder of the liberal pro-European Progressive Slovakia (established in 2017 and thus not yet represented in parliament), defeated her populist-backed opponent by a landslide to become Slovakia’s first female president. She ran on a platform of anti-corruption and stemming the rising tide of populism and nationalism. Former president Andrej Kiska in June 2019 launched a new political party to take on the ruling left-wing populist Smer-SD (Direction Social Democracy), which holds 48 seats in parliament and governs in coalition with the right-wing populist Slovak National Party (SNS) and center-right Most–Híd (Bridge). Kiska’s new party is projected to enter parliament.

United Kingdom Local (including Mayor of London) – May 7, 2020 and General – Due by May 5, 2022 (snap possible)

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy (a Commonwealth Realm)
Population: 65.1 million

The Conservatives won a majority in the the 2015 elections, allowing them to form a government on their own (they had defeated the incumbent Labour in the 2010 elections, but did not have a majority and had to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats). The Conservatives had promised to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union (Brexit), and the highly polarized vote delivered a win for the Brexiteers.

Following the result of the referendum, Cameron resigned as prime minister, and former Home Minister Teresa May won the subsequent Conservative Party leadership contest and became prime minister. May called for a new general election, but the gamble failed and the Conservatives lost their majority. They were able to form a government backed by a confidence-and-supply deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, a situation that significantly hindered the government’s ability to negotiate an exit. Following pressure, May resigned, and firebrand Brexiteer Boris Johnson won the leadership contest and became Prime Minister. Johnson has committed to delivering Brexit by October 31, 2019, with or without a deal. However, many MPs oppose leaving without a deal, creating a climate of tension and uncertainty in British politics.

Regardless of when the next general election takes place, local elections, including for mayor of London, are set for May 7, 2020. The UK staggers its terms for members of local councils, so various local elections take place each year. In 2020, the post of mayor of London is up. Labourite Sadiq Khan is expected to run for re-election. Former Tory MP Rory Stewart, now an independent after leaving the Conservative Party over a Brexit disagreement, has declared his intention to run.

Italy General – Due by May 2023 (snap possible)

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 62.2 million

Italy’s 2018 general elections resulted in a hung parliament. Two very different populist parties – the nationalist, anti-immigrant Lega (League – formerly the Northern League), and the Five Star Movement, founded by comedian Beppe Grillo – formed a contentious coalition. After months of speculation, the coalition collapsed when the League’s Matteo Salvini pulled out, in a ploy to trigger a new election. However, Five Star then formed another (equally fragile) coalition with former Prime Minster Matteo Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party (PD). Renzi then announced that he was leaving PD to start a new centrist party, but would still back the government. The coalition could collapse yet again, and snap elections are still very much a possibility.

Italy’s politics has been volatile for a long time. Daniel R. DePetris at the Spectator notes: “Italian politics is like a game of musical chairs. One government resigns or collapses, another takes its place, until that government is either rendered irrelevant a year later or voted out during the next election. Italy has had 68 governments in the last 74 years and 10 prime ministers in the last 20.”

Switzerland Parliamentary – October 20, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Federal Republic (formally a confederation)
Population: 8.3 million

The right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party won by a landslide in Switzerland’s last elections, in 2015, but the government is an ideologically-diverse coalition of the four largest parties in parliament.

Poland Parliamentary – October 13, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy
Population: 38.4 million

Poland’s right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) came to power in the 2015 elections, winning a majority, a first for a Polish political party in a free election. The party has been criticized for its increasingly authoritarian tendencies, but it nonetheless won a massive victory in this year’s European Parliament elections.

Law and Justice held its majority in the Sejm (lower house), but lost its majority in the Senate (upper house). The Sejm is more powerful, but the lack of a majority in the Senate could derail some of PiS’s plans. The country is highly polarized.

Hungary Local – October 13, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free (downgraded from Free this year)
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 9.9 million

Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party has become increasingly authoritarian. Nonetheless, the party has been on a winning streak. In the April 2018 parliamentary elections, Fidesz won a third supermajority, and the party won 52 percent of the vote in this year’s European Parliament elections. While the party has historically been a member of the center-right European People’s Party, it has in recent years become populist and nationalist, but with left-wing economic policies. Orbán has pushed the idea of “illiberal democracy.” The local elections will not change the national government, but if the opposition can unite and put in a strong showing, it will reduce Fidesz’s stranglehold on the country’s politics.

In June 2019, the Hungarian opposition united to hold the country’s first-ever formal primary to choose a candidate for mayor of Budapest. Sociologist Gergely Karácsony will take on incumbent István Tarlós, who is backed by Orban.

Austria Snap Parliamentary – September 29, 2019 and Vorarlberg State – October 13, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: Austria – 8.8 million; Vorarlberg State – 389,000

Austria’s government fell in a no-confidence vote – the first in Austria’s history – in May following the “Ibiza-gate” scandal involving the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which had been part of the coalition headed by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache was filmed on the Spanish island of Ibiza offering state contracts in exchange for money to a woman who claimed to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

ÖVP won the most seats, and the FPÖ saw a 10 percent loss in its vote share. Coalition negotiations are currently underway – Kurz could either reunite with the far-right, or go in a new direction with the Greens.

Kosovo Snap Parliamentary – October 6, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 1.9 million

Kosovo held snap elections on October 6 following the resignation of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj after he was summoned to The Hague about potential war crimes. Haradinaj, who had previously been acquitted for war crimes – became prime minister in snap elections in June 2017 following a no-confidence motion.

Kosovo – which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian – was formerly part of Serbia, and for a long time enjoyed a degree of autonomy. However, in 1999, in the context of the breakup of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic became president of Serbia and centralized control of Kosovo. This kicked off a bloody war between Serbian forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). NATO intervened with airstrikes and Kosovo was placed under UN administration. On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared independence, and the United States recognized the country on February 18. Other countries followed suit, and even though some countries continue to view Kosovo as a breakaway province of Serbia, many analysts believe that independence is an irreversible fact.

Kosovo has a number of political parties that compete in elections – many grew out of KLA networks or were founded by prominent KLA commanders. Personalities play a large role in the political parties – perhaps a bigger role than ideology, although many of the parties do have broadly-stated ideologies. Kosovo has a record of holding elections that are generally credible despite some concerns. Some violent incidents still occur.

The left-wing nationalist Vetëvendosje (VV) won the most seats in this year’s elections, but did not secure a majority. VV is currently in negotiations with the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) to form a government, which they promise to do in November. If the two parties successfully form a government, it will be the first time power has transferred fully to opposition parties following an election.

Upcoming Europe Elections
Germany Thuringia State Parliament – October 27, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: Germany – 80.5 million; Thuringia – 2.2 million

Germany has a federal system with 16 Länder (states) that each have their own constitution, parliament (Landtag) and state government. The states have autonomy over internal policy, but do not have their own tax authority, and political parties are quite centralized at the federal level.

Three states in the east hold elections this year: Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia, in polls that are seen as an important test for Angela Merkel’s coalition government. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been projected to do well in all three state elections in the east this year. AfD won the most votes in Brandenburg in the European Parliament elections this year. It beat CDU in Saxony, and came close in Thuringia.

However, AfD did not manage to win either the Saxony or Brandenburg election, although it did make gains and place second in both states. Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) maintained its position as the biggest party in Saxony and the center-left center-left Social Democrats (SPD) held onto first place in Brandenburg.

Thuriginia will be an important contest. The AfD leader there, Björn Höcke, is seen as one of the most extreme figures in the party.

AFP: “Germany’s far-right AfD party faces a key test of support in a state election in former communist east Germany on Sunday, following national outrage over a deadly shooting at a synagogue. The campaign in Thuringia has featured death threats, arson and Nazi rhetoric and the AfD’s candidate is Bjoern Hoecke, who heads up the most extreme wing of Alternative for Germany (AfD).”

DW: “Death threats have been sent to Green lawmaker Dirk Adams and to an ally of Angela Merkel, Mike Mohring, in the eastern state of Thuringia ahead of elections. At least one threat ended with ‘Heil Hitler.’”

Erik Nelson, OZY: “It was in Thuringia 90 years ago that the Nazis first entered a governing coalition. Ahead of Sunday, AfD posters around Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia, extol ‘Freedom of opinion,’ which for many Germans is a dog whistle for the nationalism and intolerance repudiated after the defeat of Nazism.”

Madeline Chambers, Reuters: “Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) will on Saturday [October 26] announce the result of a ballot for a new leader to guide them out of months of turmoil and, in effect, decide whether to ditch their unloved coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.”

Bulgaria Local – October 27, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 7.1 million

In the European elections in May, both the governing center-right GERB party and the main opposition Socialist Party ran on a pro-European platform, despite some members of both parties wanting to take a more Eurosceptic tone. As a result, GERB won, followed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The Volya party, which partners with Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament, did not win any seats. However, turnout was very low – 30 percent. Bulgaria is beginning to emerge from a long stretch of chaotic politics characterized by a series of early elections and caretaker governments, but a number of problems remain.

The two biggest parties – GERB and the BSP – are both fielding female candidates for mayor of Sofia, the capital. Incumbent Yordanka Fandakova from GERB is running for another term, and the Socialists have endorsed former ombudsman Maya Manolova, who used to be a former BSP member of parliament.

Boyko Vassilev, Transitions Online: “The particular problem in Bulgaria is politicians’ appeasement of football fan groups. Politicians do not want to quarrel with them because they can organize protests and influence voters. There is something deeper here, too. Resentment between Europe’s East and West – mainly on identity issues – has become deep and painful. It poisons public debate, media discourse, and domestic politics. To various degrees, it affects all of the affairs Bulgaria is preoccupied with, from success in political campaigns to treatment of foreigners.”

Sofia Globe: “The latest in a series of protests in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia against the election of Ivan Geshev as Prosecutor-General began on the evening of October 23, the eve of the Supreme Judicial Council vote on his nomination.”

Updated October 24, 2019

Tsvetelia Tsolova, Reuters: “Bulgaria’s top judicial body on Thursday elected the sole candidate for the next chief prosecutor in a process lacking competition that raised questions whether nominee Ivan Geshev would wage a genuine war on high-level corruption….The powerful position is key to combating graft in Bulgaria, ranked as the most corrupt member state in the European Union by the watchdog Transparency International.”

Spain Snap Parliamentary – November 10, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Population: 49.3 million

Spain is headed for its fourth election in four years following Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s failure to form a coalition government. The incumbent Socialists won the April snap elections, which Sánchez called after failing to pass a budget. The far-right Vox won seats, the first time the far-right has been in parliament since Spain became a democracy (Vox also won seats in Andalusia’s regional elections in December, the first time for the far-right to enter any Spanish legislative body in the history of Spanish democracy).

AFP: “Ahead of next month’s general election, Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez faced sharp criticism Sunday for his handling of violent Catalan separatist protests even as calm returned to Barcelona and other cities. Hundreds of people packed a square in front of Catalonia‘s regional government headquarters in Barcelona for a rally by the centre-right party Ciudadanos to demand that order be restored.”

CNA: “Catalan crisis looms large over Spain’s November election: Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the opposition leader visited Barcelona on Monday (Oct 21) to meet police struggling with Catalan separatist violence in a crisis that could be a game-changer in next month’s general election.”

Raphael Minder, New York Times: “About to Exhume Franco, Spain Faces 33,000 Others Buried With Him At the Valley of the Fallen, enemies and allies alike were buried near Spain’s former dictator, Francisco Franco, whose remains are about to be moved.”

Romania Presidential – November 10, 2019 and Local – Expected June 2020 (Snap parliamentary possible)
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Semi-Presidential Republic
Population: 21.5 million

Since communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu fell in 1989, Romania has become a free democracy but politics are volatile – the office of the prime minister has changed hands eight times since 2014. Corruption and weak rule of law remain serious problems. Liviu Dragnea, head of the governing left-wing Social Democratic Party (PSD), is currently in prison for abuse of power. PSD only got 23 percent of votes in the May 2019 European Parliament election, half of the support it had in the 2016 parliamentary elections. The 2014 presidential elections handed a surprise victory to Klaus Iohannis, the center-right mayor of Sibiu in Transylvania, who defeated then-Prime Minister Victor Ponta in the runoff. Iohannis plans to run for a second term.

AP: “Romania’s president on Tuesday nominated Ludovic Orban [no relation to Prime Minister Viktor Orban of neighboring Hungary] of the center-right National Liberal Party to form a new government and become the country’s next prime minister….Beset by corruption scandals, the Social Democratic government led by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila lost a no-confidence vote in the legislature last week.”

Romania Insider: “Some of the opposition parties in Romania have reached agreements with Liberal leader Ludovic Orban to support his new Government at the endorsement vote in the Parliament. However, the new Orban cabinet is still short of its necessary majority, the latest developments show.”

Carmen Paun, Politico: “EU to end corruption monitoring scheme in Bulgaria, but not Romania: Both countries were placed under monitoring program when they joined the EU in 2007.

Ireland Parliamentary By-Elections – November 19, 2019 (expected) and Snap Parliamentary – May 2020 (expected – could be earlier)
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 5.1 million

The last elections for the Dáil Éireann (parliament) took place in February 2016, and the next elections are due by April 2021, although there has been speculation that Ireland will have snap elections, possibly in May 2020. The two biggest parties are the center-right Fine Gael, currently in government, and the centrist Fianna Fáil, which has a confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael. Other parties include the left-wing Sinn Féin, the political arm of the infamous Irish Republican Army (IRA), and various other smaller center-left and left-wing parties.

The by-elections will fill four seats vacated when the incumbents won seats to the European Parliament in May. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil each held one of the seats up for grabs in the by-elections, and the remaining two were Independents 4 Change, a left-wing and green political group.

John Downing, Independent (Ireland): “Four by-elections to replace TDs who ‘opted for Europe’ are fixed for November 29: Voters in four constituencies in counties Dublin, Cork and Wexford will be asked to go to the polls at the end of next month to choose new TDs [Members of Parliament].”

Fiach Kelly, Irish Times: “Fine Gael Ministers are warning that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will have to commit to holding a general election in May in order to stop Taoiseach Leo Varadkar going to the country next month if the revised Brexit deal passes the UK parliament. Mr Varadkar has repeatedly said his preferred date for holding the next general election is May 2020, but he has criticised Fianna Fáil for linking the duration of the confidence and supply deal to Brexit.”

Padraic Halpin, Reuters: “Supporters of Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will urge him to call a snap election if Britain can seal its departure from the European Union, four members of his Fine Gael party told Reuters. Varadkar’s minority government, run via a cooperation deal with the main opposition Fianna Fail party, was supposed to last only until the end of 2018 but its lifespan was extended as Dublin took on a pivotal role in Brexit talks.”

France Municipal – March 15-22, 2020
Freedom House Rating: Free 
Government Type: Semi-Presidential Republic
Population: 67.4 million

France’s 2017 presidential election saw the collapse of the two political parties that had historically dominated French politics – François Hollande’s Socialists and Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans (formerly the Union for a Popular Movement – UMP). Neither party’s candidate made it to the final round. Instead, right-wing populist Marine Le Pen from the Front National (now called National Rally) lost to centrist Emmanuel Macron, whose newly-formed La République en Marche! (LREM) pulled together a combination of figures from the right and the left. In the legislative elections soon after, LREM won a majority.

French municipal elections happen every six years. Voters will elect councils in France’s 36,000+ communes, which are towns or cities (anything from a tiny village to Paris itself). During the 2014 municipal elections, the Socialists took heavy losses, and the center-right made big gains, with the far-right also making some gains, winning control of 11 towns. However, the Socialists held onto Paris in a close election – Anne Hidalgo beat UMP’s Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet in the second round to become Paris’s first female mayor (Kosciusko-Morizet had won more votes in the first round). Hidalgo is expected to run for another term. The other parties are currently in the process of selecting their candidates.

Tristan Quinault-Maupoil and Mathilde Siraud, Le Figaro (in French): “Municipal Elections: Partisan labels no longer seem to win. Candidates of all stripes erase their partisan commitment to campaign on ultra-local themes, at the risk of complicating the analysis of results on the evening of the second round.”

Alexandre Lemarie, Le Monde (in French): “Macron and the municipal elections, interventionism with variable geometry: If the head of state was directly involved in the investiture of his party for the poll in Lyon, he kept his distance to Marseille and Paris.”

Abel Mestre, Le Monde (in French): “Insubordinate France wants to skip the municipal elections: Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s [left-wing populist] party, cooled by its results in the European elections, has been mostly out of view ahead of the March elections.”

North Macedonia Snap Parliamentary – April 12, 2020
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free 
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 2.1 million

In June 2018, Greece and North Macedonia signed the historic Prespa Agreement, by which Macedonia would change its name to North Macedonia in exchange for Greece supporting the country’s membership in NATO and the EU, ending a dispute over the country’s name since its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 (Greece said that using the name “Macedonia” implied irredentist claims over parts of Greece).

New York Times correspondent Alexsander Dimishkovski notes: “Macedonia, a small, landlocked Balkan country of two million, transformed from a fragile but promising democracy to an authoritarian state under Nikola Gruevski, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2016. During the period, the country witnessed a degradation in the rights of the news media, a heavily biased judiciary system, rampant corruption and abuses of power.”

Reuters: “ Leaders of major political parties in North Macedonia, including those in the ruling coalition, agreed to hold a snap parliamentary election on April 12 after the European Union failed to give the country a date to start talks on joining the bloc. French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday led a group of leaders who blocked opening talks with Albania and North Macedonia, despite concerns over increasing Chinese and Russian influence in the Balkans.”

BBC: “Mr Macron was joined by Denmark and the Netherlands in refusing Albania, but France alone rejected North Macedonia. All EU states must agree before approval is given for membership talks to begin. Defending his position, President Macron said the accession process itself had to be reformed and the EU ‘should do more to help those countries develop, not just make pledges.’”

Clare Nuttall, BNE Intellinews: “The failure of EU leaders to agree on a firm date to start accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia at the latest European Council meeting on October 17-18 is already having negative political repercussions within the two countries and risks a resurgence of the instability seen over the last few years.”

Ellen Mitchell, The Hill: “The Senate on Tuesday [October 22] voted in support of North Macedonia joining NATO, paving the way for the Balkan country to become part of the alliance. Lawmakers voted 91-2 to make North Macedonia NATO’s 30th member, with only Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) objecting.”

Slovakia Parliamentary – February or March 2020
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 5.4 million

Slovakia’s politics could be headed for a change following the murder a year ago of journalist Jan Kuciak, who was investigating the ties between the ruling left-wing populist Smer-SD party and organized crime. In June 2019, Zuzana Čaputová, a co-founder of the liberal pro-European Progressive Slovakia (established in 2017 and thus not yet represented in parliament), defeated her populist-backed opponent by a landslide to become Slovakia’s first female president. She ran on a platform of anti-corruption and stemming the rising tide of populism and nationalism. Former president Andrej Kiska in June 2019 launched a new political party to take on the ruling left-wing populist Smer-SD (Direction Social Democracy), which holds 48 seats in parliament and governs in coalition with the right-wing populist Slovak National Party (SNS) and center-right Most–Híd (Bridge). Kiska’s new party is projected to enter parliament.

Reuters: “Slovak authorities have charged a high-profile businessman and three others with murder over the killing of a journalist and his fiancee last year, a case that is still sending shockwaves through the country’s political landscape more than a year after it brought down the prime minister, Robert Fico.”

Yulia Savchenko, VOA: “Slovakia’s top diplomat says last year’s murder of an investigative journalist and his fiancée has changed the Central European country and possibly altered how citizens will vote in upcoming parliamentary elections.”

United Kingdom Local (including Mayor of London) – May 7, 2020 and General – Due by May 5, 2022 (snap possible)
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy (a Commonwealth Realm)
Population: 65.1 million

The Conservatives won a majority in the the 2015 elections, allowing them to form a government on their own (they had defeated the incumbent Labour in the 2010 elections, but did not have a majority and had to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats). The Conservatives had promised to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union (Brexit), and the highly polarized vote delivered a win for the Brexiteers.

Following the result of the referendum, Cameron resigned as prime minister, and former Home Minister Teresa May won the subsequent Conservative Party leadership contest and became prime minister. May called for a new general election, but the gamble failed and the Conservatives lost their majority. They were able to form a government backed by a confidence-and-supply deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, a situation that significantly hindered the government’s ability to negotiate an exit. Following pressure, May resigned, and firebrand Brexiteer Boris Johnson won the leadership contest and became Prime Minister. Johnson has committed to delivering Brexit by October 31, 2019, with or without a deal. However, many MPs oppose leaving without a deal, creating a climate of tension and uncertainty in British politics.

Regardless of when the next general election takes place, local elections, including for mayor of London, are set for May 7, 2020. The UK staggers its terms for members of local councils, so various local elections take place each year. In 2020, the post of mayor of London is up. Labourite Sadiq Khan is expected to run for re-election. Former Tory MP Rory Stewart, now an independent after leaving the Conservative Party over a Brexit disagreement, has declared his intention to run.

Ross Lydall, London Evening Standard: “Voters divided on Sadiq Khan months before London Mayor election: Sadiq Khan’s satisfaction rating among Londoners remains fragile with only months until the mayoral election, City Hall polling reveals.”

Rob Merrick, The Independent: “Nicola Sturgeon has backed a general election “before Christmas”, suggesting the SNP will vote for it if Boris Johnson tries to take the plunge. The Scottish first minister said the UK should go to the polls as soon as an extension to Article 50 is “nailed down” – piling pressure on Labour to do the same.”

Updated October 24, 2019

Rob Picheta and Bianca Britton, CNN: “Boris Johnson calls for December election amid Brexit chaos: The Prime Minister says he will give lawmakers more time to debate his Brexit deal — if they agree to a December 12 election.”

Italy General – Due by May 2023 (snap possible)
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 62.2 million

Italy’s 2018 general elections resulted in a hung parliament. Two very different populist parties – the nationalist, anti-immigrant Lega (League – formerly the Northern League), and the Five Star Movement, founded by comedian Beppe Grillo – formed a contentious coalition. After months of speculation, the coalition collapsed when the League’s Matteo Salvini pulled out, in a ploy to trigger a new election. However, Five Star then formed another (equally fragile) coalition with former Prime Minster Matteo Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party (PD). Renzi then announced that he was leaving PD to start a new centrist party, but would still back the government. The coalition could collapse yet again, and snap elections are still very much a possibility.

Italy’s politics has been volatile for a long time. Daniel R. DePetris at the Spectator notes: “Italian politics is like a game of musical chairs. One government resigns or collapses, another takes its place, until that government is either rendered irrelevant a year later or voted out during the next election. Italy has had 68 governments in the last 74 years and 10 prime ministers in the last 20.”

Alessandro Speciale and Marco Bertacche, Bloomberg: “Elections Matter. Why Italy’s Non-Election Did, Too”

Past Europe Elections
Switzerland Parliamentary – October 20, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Federal Republic (formally a confederation)
Population: 8.3 million

The right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party won by a landslide in Switzerland’s last elections, in 2015, but the government is an ideologically-diverse coalition of the four largest parties in parliament.

Anca Gurzu, Politico: “Green parties make biggest gains in Swiss election: Far right still wins most seats, but environmentalists’ success could land them a Cabinet seat, according to projections.”

SwissInfo: “Why this Swiss election will go down in the history books: From massive shifts in party power to a record proportion of women, here are the reasons why Sunday’s Swiss parliamentary elections can be called historic.”

Poland Parliamentary – October 13, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy
Population: 38.4 million

Poland’s right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) came to power in the 2015 elections, winning a majority, a first for a Polish political party in a free election. The party has been criticized for its increasingly authoritarian tendencies, but it nonetheless won a massive victory in this year’s European Parliament elections.

Law and Justice held its majority in the Sejm (lower house), but lost its majority in the Senate (upper house). The Sejm is more powerful, but the lack of a majority in the Senate could derail some of PiS’s plans. The country is highly polarized.

Steven Hoffman, Krakow Post: “5 takeaways from the 2019 Polish parliament election”

Jo Harper, DW: “Poland’s unlikely PiS dividend: The new government is determined to go on with its reconstruction of Poland’s political economy. But without a Senate majority and economic downturn looming, will it be able to keep its show on the road?”

Reuters: “Poland’s ruling nationalists asked the Supreme Court on Monday to approve a recount of some votes for parliament’s upper house, a move which if approved could hand them a majority in both chambers and expedite their disputed reform agenda.”

Reuters: “Poland’s opposition challenged results in three districts in elections for parliament’s upper house on Tuesday, setting the scene for a dispute over a tight result a day after the ruling party submitted requests for recounts in other districts.”

Magdalena Gwozdz-Pallokat, DW: “Poland: Recounting votes to get the right result? Poland’s governing party won recent elections but lost a majority in the Senate, so now it wants a recount. That’s a Stalinist attack on democracy, the opposition has said — while defending its own recount initiative.”

Cas Mudde, The Guardian: “Consider what we’re seeing: rightwing populists’ open attacks on liberal democracy do not deter their supporters, particularly in highly polarized societies. This helps explain why parties like Fidesz and PiS continue to win after radicalizing in office, or why Boris Johnson has significantly increased popular support for the Conservatives since taking over as party leader and prime minister.”

Marek Strzelecki and Adrian Krajewski, Bloomberg: “Poland’s plan for its first post-communist balanced budget came under threat after factions of the ruling party quarreled over their intentions to juice the economy with post-election stimulus.”

Hungary Local – October 13, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free (downgraded from Free this year)
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 9.9 million

Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party has become increasingly authoritarian. Nonetheless, the party has been on a winning streak. In the April 2018 parliamentary elections, Fidesz won a third supermajority, and the party won 52 percent of the vote in this year’s European Parliament elections. While the party has historically been a member of the center-right European People’s Party, it has in recent years become populist and nationalist, but with left-wing economic policies. Orbán has pushed the idea of “illiberal democracy.” The local elections will not change the national government, but if the opposition can unite and put in a strong showing, it will reduce Fidesz’s stranglehold on the country’s politics.

In June 2019, the Hungarian opposition united to hold the country’s first-ever formal primary to choose a candidate for mayor of Budapest. Sociologist Gergely Karácsony will take on incumbent István Tarlós, who is backed by Orban.

The Economist: “Mr Erdogan annulled the Istanbul vote, though much good it did him: his man lost even more heavily at a re-run in June. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, is unlikely to try anything so crass. But the loss of Budapest is a major blow for him, puncturing his image as an invincible and almost unopposed leader for the past decade.”

András Rácz, International Centre for Defence and Security (Estonia): “However, even with these results, Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz still maintains its constitutional supermajority in the Hungarian parliament and full control over budgetary resources. Increasing polarization should be expected in the upcoming years between the central government and opposition-led cities.”

Austria Snap Parliamentary – September 29, 2019 and Vorarlberg State – October 13, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Republic
Population: Austria – 8.8 million; Vorarlberg State – 389,000

Austria’s government fell in a no-confidence vote – the first in Austria’s history – in May following the “Ibiza-gate” scandal involving the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which had been part of the coalition headed by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache was filmed on the Spanish island of Ibiza offering state contracts in exchange for money to a woman who claimed to be the niece of a Russian oligarch.

ÖVP won the most seats, and the FPÖ saw a 10 percent loss in its vote share. Coalition negotiations are currently underway – Kurz could either reunite with the far-right, or go in a new direction with the Greens.

AP: “Austria’s far-right Freedom Party has thrown out Philippa Strache, wife of party ex-leader and former Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, after she accepted a parliamentary seat won in last month’s election.”

Lukas Kaelin and Benjamin Kaelin, Foreign Affairs: “Are Populists Unusually Prone to Political Blunders? In the DNA of Far-Right Demagogues Is a Blueprint for Their Demise”

Kosovo Snap Parliamentary – October 6, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 1.9 million

Kosovo held snap elections on October 6 following the resignation of Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj after he was summoned to The Hague about potential war crimes. Haradinaj, who had previously been acquitted for war crimes – became prime minister in snap elections in June 2017 following a no-confidence motion.

Kosovo – which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian – was formerly part of Serbia, and for a long time enjoyed a degree of autonomy. However, in 1999, in the context of the breakup of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic became president of Serbia and centralized control of Kosovo. This kicked off a bloody war between Serbian forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). NATO intervened with airstrikes and Kosovo was placed under UN administration. On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared independence, and the United States recognized the country on February 18. Other countries followed suit, and even though some countries continue to view Kosovo as a breakaway province of Serbia, many analysts believe that independence is an irreversible fact.

Kosovo has a number of political parties that compete in elections – many grew out of KLA networks or were founded by prominent KLA commanders. Personalities play a large role in the political parties – perhaps a bigger role than ideology, although many of the parties do have broadly-stated ideologies. Kosovo has a record of holding elections that are generally credible despite some concerns. Some violent incidents still occur.

The left-wing nationalist Vetëvendosje (VV) won the most seats in this year’s elections, but did not secure a majority. VV is currently in negotiations with the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) to form a government, which they promise to do in November. If the two parties successfully form a government, it will be the first time power has transferred fully to opposition parties following an election.

Blerim Vela, London School of Economics’ EUROPP: “The creation of the new Vetëvendosje and LDK government will mark the first full transfer of power after elections between previous governing and opposition parties since the creation of the Assembly of Kosovo in 2001. This represents a major achievement with regards to the consolidation of democracy in Kosovo and the decoupling of public institutions (a reversal of state capture) from the excessive political influence by the PDK-led governments.”

AP: “Officials counting votes from Kosovo’s Oct. 6 election are wearing protective clothing to handle ballots from neighbouring Serbia after a dozen of their colleagues were hospitalized with unexplained skin complaints. The counting, suspended Oct. 13 for votes from Serbia due to the incident, resumed Wednesday [October 23]. According to Valmir Elezi, spokesman of the Central Election Commission, the counting would be done ‘under protective measures.’”

Jack Robinson, Prishtina Insight: “Can a government be formed without Lista Srpska? After winning the largest share of the vote in the parliamentary elections, Vetevendosje have promised to exclude Belgrade-backed Lista Srpska from the next Kosovo government. But is it democratically and constitutionally possible?

Artan Murati, European Western Balkans: “Brussel’s hot potato: New Kosovo Government and the dialogue with Serbia”

Jasmina Kuzmanovic, Misha Savic, and Andrea Dudik, Bloomberg: “Once Beaten and Imprisoned, Kosovo’s Leader Now Has Greater Test: Former political prisoner is poised to become prime minister.”

The Year Ahead: Europe Elections
Bulgaria local (October 27); Germany Thuringia state (October 27); Romania presidential (November 10); Spain snap parliamentary (November 10 – not officially called, but highly likely); Croatia presidential (December); France municipal (March 15-11); Slovakia parliamentary (March 2020); Serbia parliamentary, provincial, local (due by April – snap possible); Poland presidential (May); Iceland presidential (June); Romania local and possibly snap parliamentary (June)

 


Romanian president Klaus Iohannis has asked Ludovic Orban (center – no relation to Viktor Orban in neighboring Hungary) to form a new government. Photo credit: Wikimedia/European People’s Party (CC BY 2.0)

21votes does not necessarily endorse all of the views in all of the linked articles or publications. More on our approach here.

 

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