Europe This Week: May 5, 2021

May 5, 2021

Your weekly roundup of news and analysis of elections in Europe, usually posted on Wednesdays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

Buses in London. The UK holds local elections (including for mayor of London), plus elections for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, on Thursday, May 6. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Jon Bennett (CC BY 2.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

United Kingdom Local Elections (including Mayor of London and Scottish and Welsh parliaments): May 6, 2021

The United Kingdom (UK) will hold local elections on May 6, 2021. Voters will elect various local councils, plus the mayor of London, plus Scottish and Welsh parliaments. The Scottish elections are particularly high-stakes because if the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) wins a majority, they will pressure the government in Westminster to allow another referendum on independenceMore

Reuters (May 5, 2021): Factbox: Election day: What are Scotland, England, Wales voting for?

Mark Landler, New York Times (May 5, 2021): U.K. Vote Is Likely to Back Boris Johnson, and Scottish Separatists

Madeline Grant, The Telegraph (May 5, 2021): Freewheeling Boris rolls into ‘Super Thursday’, while stumbling Starmer prepares to lick his wounds


William Booth and Karla Adam, Washington Post (May 5, 2021): Scottish independence ‘front and center’ in May 6 election

Alex Massie, The Spectator (May 5, 2021): Scottish nationalism is no better than any other kind

Alastair Reed, Bloomberg (May 5, 2021): Why Scotland’s Road to Independence Vote Is Rocky

Gina Davidson, The Scotsman (May 2, 2021): Insight: The independent candidates hoping to take on the Scottish Parliament’s party hegemony


Esther Webber, Politico (May 4, 2021): Coronavirus ups the stakes in Wales’ election

Anwen Elias, The Conversation (May 5, 2021): Elections 2021: what to look out for in Wales


Guy Davies, ABC (May 2, 2021): The actor, the YouTuber, and the American businessman: Meet the eccentric cast vying to be London’s next Mayor

Jim Waterston, The Guardian (April 30, 2021): How YouTubers turned running for London mayor into content: Several internet personalities will be on the ballot on 6 May, though most know they have no chance of winning

Croatia Local Elections: May 16, 2021

Croatia has scheduled local elections for May 21, 2021. These elections got a bit of a shakeup when Milan Bandic, the mayor of Zagreb, died in February after a combined 20 years in office (according to some reports, he was the world’s longest-serving mayor). Although Bandic had a devoted following, he was also controversial, and embroiled in a number of scandals. A former communist, he joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) when Croatia began holding multiparty elections in 1990, but later broke off to start his own party. Meanwhile, HDZ, the main conservative party, won last year’s parliamentary elections, after losing the January 2020 presidential election. Tomislav Tomašević from the green-left Možemo! appears to be leading polls for mayor of Zagreb.

HINA (April 30, 2021): Over 38,000 Candidates To Run in Croatia’s Local Elections

Cyprus Parliamentary Elections: May 30, 2021

Cyprus is due to hold parliamentary elections on May 23, 2021. The center-right DISY – currently in the majority – will face off against the center-left AKEL, the main opposition party (with a number of smaller parties also competing). Cyprus is a presidential system (the only full presidential system in the EU), so these elections will function as more of a test for the parties ahead of the 2023 presidential election. The current president is President Nicos Anastasiades (from DISY). This is all happening in the context of the ongoing Eastern Mediterranean crisisMore

Cyprus Mail (May 4, 2021): Our View: Low key election campaign threatens to boost apathy

Michael Jansen, Irish Times (April 30, 2021): UN-brokered Cyprus talks fail to find ‘common ground’

Peter Kenyon, NPR (April 29, 2021 – audio): Standoff Between Greece And Turkey Over Cyprus Remains In Place

Latvia Municipal Elections: June 5, 2021

Latvia has scheduled municipal elections for June 5, 2021. After that, parliamentary elections are due in October 2022. More

Elizabete Mežule, Baltic News Network (May 5, 2021): Convicted Latvian mayor will run for office from prison

France Regional Elections: June 13, 2021 and Presidential Election: April 2022 (due) 

France holds regional elections on June 13, 2021, with a second round on June 20. These come ahead of next year’s presidential and legislative elections, where President Emmanuel Macron potentially faces a formidable challenge from the far-right. More

Regional Elections

Clea Caulcutt, Politico (May 4, 2021): French conservatives reeling after Macron’s kiss of death

Victor Mallet, Financial Times (May 3, 2021): France’s Les Républicains in turmoil over election ‘betrayal’

Reuters (May 2, 2021): Macron’s party teams up with conservatives for regional elections in south


Rick Noack, Washington Post (May 5, 2021): On the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s death, his legacy divides France

Aurelien Breeden, New York Times (May 4, 2021): Far-Right French Leader Marine Le Pen Acquitted Over ISIS Tweets

Bulgaria Snap Parliamentary Elections: July 11, 2021

Bulgaria is holding fresh parliamentary elections on July 11 after no party formed a government following the April 4 elections. In those polls, PM Boyko Borissov’s center-right GERB won the most seats, but lost ground and failed to win a majority. New parties running against the establishment did surprisingly well – in fact,  a party called There Is Such a People, led by TV star Stanislav Trifonov, came in second and ruled out forming a coalition with GERB. Trifonov’s main platform was anti-corruption – indeed, corruption was the biggest issue in the election. More

Euronews (May 5, 2021): Bulgaria to hold fresh parliamentary elections in July after coalition talks fail

RFE/RL (May 5, 2021): Bulgarian President Sees Snap Parliamentary Elections On July 11

Henry Foy, Financial Times (April 30, 2021): Diplomatic expulsions diminish Russia’s reach in eastern Europe

Germany Bundestag Elections: September 26, 2021 (plus various state elections throughout the year)

Germany is due to hold several sets of elections next year, culminating in the September 26, 2021 federal parliamentary elections that will determine who succeeds Angela Merkel as chancellor. Additionally, five states hold elections.  The year 2021 is thus a “Superwahljahr” (Super election year) in Germany. 

Following an intense fight, CDU and CSU have nominated CDU leader Armin Laschet to be their candidate for chancellor. He defeated the Bavarian Markus Söder, who is more popular with voters. Meanwhile, over the past year, the Greens have taken SPD’s place as the main center-left party. They have portrayed themselves as responsible and mainstream, and have governed as such when in state governments. Consequently, Annalena Baerbock could become the first Green head of government in the history of the world. However, despite his unpopularity, Armin Laschet remains the favorite to succeed Merkel as chancellor. Nonetheless, German voters have a real choice and Baerbock, who comes from the party’s “realo” (moderate) wing as opposed to the “fundi” (radical) wing – has an actual shot at the top job.  More

Constanze Stelzenmüller, Brookings Institution (May 4, 2021): Hello, Berlin? Germany’s future raises foreign policy concerns for allies

Willis Sparks, Gzero (May 4, 2021): Is Germany turning Green?

Emily Schultheis, Foreign Policy (May 3, 2021): Germany’s Post-Pacifist Generation Is Nearing Power

Matthew Karnitschnig, Politico (April 30, 2021): Everyone loves Germany’s Greens (for now)

Kate Brady, DW (April 29, 2021): German elections: Merkel nemesis Friedrich Merz joins team Laschet

Luke McGee, CNN (April 29, 2021): The looming crisis in Brussels that no one is talking about

Iceland Parliamentary Elections: September 25, 2021

Iceland holds elections for the Althing, its parliament (which has a strong claim to be the oldest parliament in the world), September 25, 2021. The current government is a broad coalition of the Left-Green Movement, the conservative Independence Party, and the agrarian Progressive Party. More

Andie Sophia Fontaine, Reykjavík Grapevine (May 4, 2021): Poll: Ruling Coalition Holds Its Own, People’s Party Losing Support

Poland Parliamentary Elections: Fall 2023 (snap possible)

Poland is due to hold parliamentary elections in fall 2023, but could call snap elections if the three parties in the conservative government coalition don’t all vote to approve the EU stimulus plan. However, many analysts believe that early elections are unlikely to happen because polls show that the opposition would likely win. Therefore, the coalition parties have a strong incentive to hold together.

Maria Wilczek, Politico (May 3, 2021): Poland’s Got Talent host aims for the country’s top job

The Economist (May 1, 2021): Poland’s fragmented opposition lets the governing party run wild

Past Europe Elections

Spain, Snap Regional Elections in Madrid: May 4, 2021

Madrid held early regional elections on May 4, following the collapse of the government coalition consisting of the conservative Popular Party and the liberal Citizens Party. These elections took place in a highly polarized environment, as conservative incumbent Isabel Díaz Ayuso from the Popular Party faced against leftist firebrand Pablo Inglesias. The Popular Party won the most seats, but fell short of a majority and will likely govern in coalition with the far-right Vox. Meanwhile, Citizens failed to meet the 5 percent threshold and thus lost all its seats, and the Socialists (who currently run Spain’s federal government) had a historically low vote share.

Jim Lawley, The Spectator (May 5, 2021): Is this a new dawn for the Spanish right?

Reuters (May 5, 2021): Regional election win boosts Spanish conservatives’ ambitions

DW (May 4, 2021): Spain: Right-wing wins big in Madrid regional election

El País (May 4, 2021): The lady who helped get Marcelo to his Real Madrid game, and other anecdotes from the Madrid election

Albania Parliamentary Elections: April 25, 2021

Albania held parliamentary elections on April 25, 2021 in a tense political climate with several violent incidents. Since communism collapsed in 1990, Albania has held competitive elections and several transitions of power between political parties. The elections were close, and the incumbent Socialist Party won a third term in office, defeating the main opposition center-right Democratic Party. More

Gjergj Erebara, Balkan Insight (May 4, 2021): Albanian Socialists Owe Latest Victory to Well-Oiled Machine

Llazar Semini, AP (May 3, 2021): Albania’s Socialists seek to impeach nation’s president

Zeljko Trkanjec, Euractiv (May 3, 2021): Albanian president urges recount and investigation of invalid votes

Keida Kostreci, Voice of America (April 29, 2021): Third Straight Win Produces a Test for Albania’s Socialist Party

Greenland Snap Parliamentary Elections: April 6, 2021

Greenland held hold snap parliamentary elections on April 6, 2021 after the government coalition fractured following disagreements over a China-backed rare earth minerals mining project at Kvanefjeld in the south. The long-dominant Siumut (Forward), which backed the project, lost to the left-wing green Inuit Ataqatigiit, which opposes the mine.

Greenland remains part of Denmark but has autonomy over domestic policy, although there is growing support for eventual independence. In these elections, pro-independence parties increased their vote share. More

Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic (May 3, 2021): Greenland’s Rare-Earth Election

Slovakia Parliamentary Elections: February 29, 2020

Slovakia held parliamentary elections in February 2020, won by a coalition of then-opposition parties running on an anti-corruption platform, defeating the then-incumbent populists. However, a subsequent scandal over the Russian Sputnik COVID vaccine has engulfed the government, threatening its collapse. More

Lucia Yar, Euractiv (May 4, 2021): 600,000 Slovaks sign referendum for early election

AP (May 4, 2021): Slovakia’s new government wins mandatory confidence vote

Dariusz Kalan, Foreign Policy (May 4, 2021): The Rise and Fall of Igor Matovic: Slovakia’s prime minister lost his job to the pandemic, but his example serves as a warning to other corruption-fighters lacking governing experience.

Montenegro Parliamentary Elections: August 30, 2020

Montenegro held parliamentary elections on August 30, 2020, the fifth since independence in 2006. 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. Zdravko Krivokapic from For the Future of Montenegro will be the next prime minister. The political base of the new coalition is generally pro-Moscow.

Samir Kajosevic, Balkan Insight (May 4, 2021): Montenegro’s Power Change Won’t Curb China’s Growing Foothold

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