Europe

November 6, 2019

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

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.

United Kingdom Snap Parliamentary - December 12, 2019 and Local (including Mayor of London) – May 7, 2020

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.

A snap general election has been called for December 12, 2019.

Slovakia Parliamentary – February 29, 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.

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.

Serbia Parliamentary – Due By April 2020 and Presidential (due 2022, snap possible)

Freedom House Rating: Partly Free (downgraded from Free in 2019)
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 7.1 million

Serbia’s last snap parliamentary elections, in April 2016, resulted in a renewed majority for Prime Minister Alexander Vucic’s nationalist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Serbia has tried to balance movement toward joining the European Union with maintaining good relations with Russia.

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.”

Poland Presidential – May 2020

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. In the 2019 parliametnary polls, 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.

Slovenia Parliamentary - Due by June 5, 2022

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

Bulgaria Local Runoffs - November 3, 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 – both fielded female candidates for mayor of Sofia, the capital. Incumbent Yordanka Fandakova from GERB is ran for another term, and the Socialists endorsed former ombudsman Maya Manolova, who used to be a former BSP member of parliament.

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.

In Thuringia, the far-left Left Party won first place, and AfD – whose leader there, Björn Höcke, is seen as one of the most extreme figures in the party – placed second. The majority of the vote went to non-mainstream parties. Some CDU figures in Thuringia floated the idea of forming a coalition with AfD, but central party leadership categorically rejected the idea.

Switzerland Parliamentary – October 20, 2019Switzerland 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.

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.

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.

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.

Belgium Parliamentary – May 26, 2019

Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Democracy under a Constitutional Monarchy
Population: 11.6 million

Upcoming Europe Elections
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).

Carlos E. Cué, El País: “As election campaign begins, parties seek to win over center and combat apathy: Spaniards will be going to the polls for the fourth time in four years on November 10, but there are already indications that many will be inclined to not vote this time around.”

Belén Carreño and Ingrid Melander, Reuters: “The main candidates to become Spain’s next prime minister clashed on Monday over how to handle Catalan separatism, as they tried to woo voters ahead of a repeat election that opinion polls show could be as inconclusive as the one in April.”

El País: “Spain’s new election will not break deadlock, poll shows: A recent survey has the Socialist Party winning 121 seats, two fewer than in April, while right-of-center parties stand to benefit collectively from the new vote.”

DW: “Spain: Far-right party Vox surges in polls ahead of election: Support for the center-left Socialists has remained steady, but upstart party Vox became the first far-right grouping in the Spanish parliament since the country returned to democracy after the Franco dictatorship.”

Mara Morecai, Pew Research Center: “5 facts about public opinion in Spain as its election nears: Most Spaniards have confidence in voting, less in the state and politicians.”

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.

Irina Vilcu and Andra Timu, Bloomberg: “Here’s Why Romanian Politics Are Blowing Up Yet Again”

Valerie Hopkins and Mehreen Khan, Financial Times: “Romania’s search for stability: Former National Liberal party leader Klaus Iohannis looks set to emerge victorious in Sunday’s presidential elections.”

Sandrine Ameil, Euronews: “Romania PM Ludovic Orban survives confidence vote”

Craig Turp, Emerging Europe: “In the first round of Romania’s presidential election, second place is what really matters”

United Kingdom Snap Parliamentary – December 12, 2019 and Local (including Mayor of London) – May 7, 2020
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.

A snap general election has been called for December 12, 2019.

Jim Pickard, Financial Times: “Three pro-EU parties set to unveil Remain pact for UK electionDeal between Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru could affect races in dozens of seats.

Jack Power, Irish Times: “The youth wing of Fine Gael has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar calling for the party to stand candidates in the upcoming general election in Northern Ireland, and to take seats in Westminster if elected.”

The Economist: “How Britain’s pollsters have changed their methods: They were wrong in 2015 and 2017, and about the Brexit vote. Will new techniques help in 2019?”

Slovakia Parliamentary – February 29, 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.

AFP: “Slovakia will hold an election in February, the speaker of parliament said Monday, with opinion polls suggesting the governing Smer-SD party will win despite plummeting support since the murder of a journalist. The vote will take place on February 29, only days after the second anniversary of the killing of an investigative journalist, which triggered a political crisis and raised concerns about corruption in the EU member state.”

Reuters: “Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova on Wednesday vetoed a new law extending a ban on publishing opinion polls up to 50 days before elections and vowed to challenge it at the Constitutional Court if the parliament overturns her veto.”

Updated November 7

Reuters: “Slovakia’s parliament deputy speaker resigned on Thursday over contacts with a businessman charged with ordering the murder of a journalist last year that sparked mass protests which ousted then Prime Minister Robert Fico.”

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.

Pierre Maurer, Le Figaro (in French): “In Paris, Rachida Dati will lead the LR list: Unsurprisingly, the Republicans have Wednesday night nominated the mayor of the 7th district to head their list for the 2020 municipal elections.”

Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian: “Marine Le Pen allies on trial for alleged fraud during 2012 election: Senior party figures accused of profiting from the state by overcharging for election kits”

Serbia Parliamentary – Due By April 2020 and Presidential (due 2022, snap possible)
Freedom House Rating: Partly Free (downgraded from Free in 2019)
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 7.1 million

Serbia’s last snap parliamentary elections, in April 2016, resulted in a renewed majority for Prime Minister Alexander Vucic’s nationalist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Serbia has tried to balance movement toward joining the European Union with maintaining good relations with Russia.

Radomir Ralev, SeeNews: “Serbia should hold regular parliamentary and local elections in the period between March 22 and April 5 next year, President Aleksandar Vucic has said.”

Reuters: “Serbia’s opposition protest at state TV studios, forcing president to use side door”

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.”

RFE/RL: “The new U.S. special envoy to the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, has criticized the European Union for delaying the start of membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania, calling it a ‘historic mistake’ that sends ‘a bad message’ to the region.”

Guy Delauney, BBC: “The French veto did not exactly leave North Macedonia’s leader lying on the ground in a crumpled heap, but it did make a mockery of his assertion that changing the country’s name would open the door to accession. For 27 years, Greece had rejected the name Macedonia because of its region of the same name. The dispute came to an end only in January after a hard-won agreement and a series of difficult votes.

Jasmin Mujanović and Molly Montgomery, Foreign Policy: “Macron’s Veto Leaves Balkans Wide Open for Russia and China”

Poland Presidential – May 2020
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. In the 2019 parliametnary polls, 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.

DW: “Tusk: Too much ‘baggage’ for Polish presidential run: Outgoing European Council President Donald Tusk says he will not run for president of his native Poland in 2020. The decision leaves it unclear who will run against right-wing incumbent Andrzej Duda in the spring.”

Slovenia Parliamentary – Due by June 5, 2022
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 2.1 million

Marja Novak, Reuters: “Slovenia’s center-left minority government on Wednesday lost the support of the opposition Left party, in a move that analysts said could eventually lead to an election before 2022.”

Past Europe Elections
Bulgaria Local Runoffs – November 3, 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 – both fielded female candidates for mayor of Sofia, the capital. Incumbent Yordanka Fandakova from GERB is ran for another term, and the Socialists endorsed former ombudsman Maya Manolova, who used to be a former BSP member of parliament.

Martin Dimitrov, Balkan Insight: “Bulgaria Ruling Party Retakes Capital in Local Elections: In a respectable result, the ruling GERB party won 15 out of 28 mayoral seats in regional cities as well as the capital on Sunday – registering only modest losses compared to the last local elections in 2015.”

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.

In Thuringia, the far-left Left Party won first place, and AfD – whose leader there, Björn Höcke, is seen as one of the most extreme figures in the party – placed second. The majority of the vote went to non-mainstream parties. Some CDU figures in Thuringia floated the idea of forming a coalition with AfD, but central party leadership categorically rejected the idea.

Reuters: “A group of eastern German conservatives have caused outrage within Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and among Jewish groups by demanding the party hold talks with the far right in the eastern state of Thuringia….Several senior members in the national CDU condemned the initiative in Thuringia, with General-Secretary Paul Ziemiak calling it ‘mad.’ He said nothing had changed in the CDU’s stance toward the AfD, and anyone who thought differently should ask themselves if they were in the right party.”

Dan Hough, Washington Post: “The German far-right AfD did well in a regional election. Don’t jump to any dramatic conclusions. Here are three reasons to stay calm.”

Chase Winter, DW: “Germany: Frauke Petry’s Blue Party dissolves after election routs: The former head of the far-right AfD, Frauke Petry, has announced her Blue Party will dissolve. The new party failed to capture conservative and right-wing votes in two state elections.”

Reuters: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition partners said on Wednesday they would keep working together after welcoming a report which they said showed how much the government had achieved but also how much it still had to do.”

Updated November 7, 2019

Rebecca Staudenmaier, DW: “Germans divided on unity legacy 30 years after fall of Berlin Wall: Fewer eastern Germans feel reunification has been beneficial than was the case ten years ago, a new survey has found. A majority of Germans agreed, however, that travel opportunities and freedom of speech are better now.”

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.

Maura Reilly, Ms.: “Last month’s elections in Switzerland culminated in many historic outcomes, including the highest turnover of seats (58)—with the People’s Party losing 12, the Green Party adding 17 and women seizing 20 more in the House of Representatives.”

Clive H. Church, London School of Economics’ EUROPP: “Much greener than expected: Key takeaways from the 2019 Swiss federal elections”

World Politics Review: “After an Electoral ‘Tsunami,’ What’s Ahead for Switzerland’s Greens?”

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.

Judith Prescott, Euronews (video): “The new mayor of Budapest – Gergely Karacsony talks about the changes in Hungary’s political scene”

World Politics Review: “In Local Elections, Hungary’s Opposition Punctures Orban’s Air of Invincibility”

Umut Korkut, The Independent: “Gergely Karácsony’s victory in Budapest echoes that of Ekrem Imamoğlu in Istanbul, and the earlier win in Warsaw by Rafal Trzaskowski. Simply put, opposition platforms can displace neo-authoritarian parties in major cities. “

Zoltan Simon, Bloomberg: “The mayor of western Hungary’s largest city, who was re-elected despite the publication of a video showing him participating in an orgy on a luxury yacht, has resigned less than a month after winning a fourth term.”

Tim Gosling, Foreign Policy: “Europe’s Populist Governments Have a Problem: Their Capitals – City-level opposition could be the key to defeating populism in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and beyond.”

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.

Gazeta Express: “New Government of Kosovo likely in November, Hoti says: Avdullah Hoti, coordinator of the working group of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) says negotiations with Vetevendosje on forming new Government will be concluded soon.”

United Nations: “Elections held earlier this month in Kosovo represent ‘the most significant change in the political landscape’ there in a dozen years, the UN mission chief told the Security Council on Thursday [October 31].”

Sean Nottoli, International Republican Institute’s Democracy Speaks: “A Young Politician Calls for Kosovo’s Youth to Stay and Make a Difference”

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.

Bastian De Monte, The New Federalist: “One month after the snap elections, the formation of a new government in Austria is not within sight. Election winner Sebastian Kurz (EPP) can choose between his old partner, the nationalist Freedom Party (Identity & Democracy), or a yet untested coalition with the Greens. How it all began, where we stand, and what it might mean for Europe…”

Belgium Parliamentary – May 26, 2019
Freedom House Rating: Free
Government Type: Federal Parliamentary Democracy under a Constitutional Monarchy
Population: 11.6 million

EU Observer: “Former Belgian prime minister and future EU Council president, Charles Michel, urged the two largest Belgian parties, the Flemish nationalist NVA and the Francophone socialist PS to take their responsibility and start government talks. The fact that they are not talking since the elections of 26 May is ‘a from of weakness, if not cowardliness,’ he said.”

Country
Text

The Month Ahead: Europe Elections
Romania presidential (November 10); Spain snap parliamentary (November 10 – not officially called, but highly likely); 


The Berlin Wall in 1988. November 9, 2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of its fall. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Roland Arhelger (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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

 

Comments

Share This