Europe This Week: May 12, 2021

May 12, 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.

Zagreb’s Ban Jelačić Square. Croatia heads to the polls for local elections on May 16. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Lamasse (public domain)

Upcoming Europe Elections

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.

Tea Trubić Macan, Euractiv (May 10, 2021): HDZ remain the most popular political party in Croatia

Ivor Kruljac, Total Croatia News (May 10, 2021): Best Zagreb Mayor By Historians: Historians Shouldn’t Rate, But Većeslav Holjevac Takes Lead

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

in-cyprus (May 10, 2021): Record number of 650 candidates running in May 30’s parliamentary elections

George Psyllides, Cyprus Mail (May 10, 2021): Abstention set to be the winner at upcoming election

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

Jānis Geste, lsv.lm (May 12, 2021): Party ratings for April show plenty to fight for in local elections

LETA (May 8, 2021): Which political party in Latvia plans to spend the most on pre-election promotion?

Germany Saxony-Anhalt State Elections: June 5, 2021, and Bundestag Elections: September 26, 2021 (plus other 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


Spiegel (May 12, 2021 – in German): Wahl-O-Mat 2021: Who would you choose in Saxony-Anhalt?


Iain Rogers, Bloomberg (May 12, 2021): Merkel Bloc Tries to Regain Momentum With Climate Overhaul

Laurens Cerulus, Politico (May 10, 2021): Facebook promises to ramp up security for German election

Guy Chazan, Financial Times (May 10, 2021): SPD struggles to break through as Greens dominate German campaign

DW (May 8, 2021): Germany: Greens to oust Tübingen mayor over racist comments

Kay-Alexander Scholz, DW (May 7, 2021): Germany: Opinion poll suggests Green party could head next government

Justin Huggler, The Telegraph (May 7, 2021): German Greens election lead at risk amid mutiny over use of word ‘Germany’ in manifesto

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

Reuters (May 11, 2021): Le Pen candidate shown gaining control of Provence region in opinion poll

Al Jazeera (May 11, 2021): France: Head of Macron’s party slams Muslim candidate’s headscarf

AFP (May 9, 2021): How France’s Macron is tacking right in bid for 2022 election triumph

The Economist (May 9, 2021): Four decades after François Mitterrand became president, France’s left is in trouble

Lorne Cook and Sylvie Corbet, ABC News (May 5, 2021): EU’s Brexit chief eyes a role in French presidential vote

Finland Local Elections: June 13, 2021 (postponed from April)

Finland is holding municipal elections on June 13, 2021, delayed from April due to COVID-19. Following the 2019 parliamentary elections, a left-leaning coalition came into government nationally. More

YLE (May 11, 2021): Yle’s election compass out now: More than 30,000 people are running for election to local councils in June

YLE (May 7, 2021): YLE: National Coalition grabs pole position ahead of Finns Party and Social Democrats

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

Reuters (May 12, 2021): Bulgaria interim govt to maintain veto on North Macedonia’s EU talks

AP (May 11, 2021): Bulgaria caretaker government appointed until July election

Krassen Nikolov, Euractiv (May 11, 2021): Former Bulgarian PM returns to politics in alliance with communists

Sofia Globe (May 11, 2021): Shake-up in leadership echelon of Borissov’s GERB party

Andrew MacDowall, World Politics Review (May 10, 2021): Bulgaria’s Fractured Politics Marks the End of the Borissov Era

Svetoslav Todorov, Balkan Insight (May 6, 2021): Bulgarian PM Rejects Extortion Claims Against GERB Party

Italy, Mayoral Elections in Rome, Milan, Turin, Naples and other cities and regional elections in Calabria: October 10-11, 2021

Italy is due to hold regional elections in Calabria in the south, as well as mayoral elections in several major cities, later this year. The next general elections aren’t due until June 2023, but as is ever the case with Italy, snap elections are possible. However, in January 2021, the government collapsed after former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his support. Former European Central Bank chief Mario “Super Mario” Draghi formed a government in February 2021.

Hannah Roberts, Politico (May 12, 2021): Could Giorgia Meloni be Italy’s first female prime minister?

Alessandro Speciale and Maria Tadeo, Bloomberg (May 11, 2021): Italy Wants Europe to Reset China Ties on More Equal Footing

Angelo Amante and Crispian Balmer, Reuters (May 10, 2021): Analysis: Italy’s Salvini struggles as rightist ally grows stronger

Hungary Parliamentary Elections: By Spring 2022 (or earlier)

Hungary is due to hold parliamentary elections by Spring 2022, although snap elections are possible. Prime Minster Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party has become increasingly authoritarian, to the concern of many both in Hungary and in the international community.

Reuters (May 12, 2021): Hungary’s opposition plans joint primary in bid to unseat PM Orban in 2022

Hungary Today (May 12, 2021): Opposition Parties Agree on Primaries Selection Method

András Arató, Euronews (May 10, 2021): Hungary is becoming a semi-dictatorship as the EU watches idly

The Economist (May 8, 2021): Meet the man who could oust Viktor Orban, Hungary’s strongman

Voice of America (May 8, 2021): Chinese University Plan Causes Security Concerns in Hungary

Serbia Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: By April 2022

Serbia held snap parliamentary elections on June 21, 2020 in a climate of mistrust. Many opposition parties boycotted, and therefore, President Alexander Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) dominated. Vucic announced that the new parliament would not serve a full term, and that the Serbia would hold both presidential and parliamentary elections by April 2022.

Serbia has tried to balance movement toward joining the European Union with maintaining good relations with Russia. Meanwhile, China has stepped up its presence.

Reid Standish, Ljudmila Cvetkovic, and Maja Zivanovic, RFE/RL (May 11, 2021): China Deepens Its Balkans Ties Using Serbian Universities

European Western Balkans (May 10, 2021): EP-facilitated Dialogue in Serbia: First meetings concluded, possible arrival of MEPs in June

Past Europe Elections

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

The United Kingdom (UK) held local elections on May 6, 2021. Voters will elected various local councils, plus the mayor of London, plus Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Overall, the Conservatives made gains on councils, but Labour’s Sadiq Khan was re-elected mayor of London. Labour also held onto its working majority in the Welsh parliament.

The Scottish elections were particularly high-stakes because if the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has been demanding another referendum on independence. The SNP won the most seats, but failed to win a majority, making it harder to insist on a new referendum.

In addition, the Conservatives won a parliamentary election in Hartlepool, a longtime Labour stronghold, a sign of a possible realignment of British politics as the Tories make gains in the Labour heartland. Some analysts have said that Labour is going through a post-Brexit identity crisis. More

The Economist (May 10, 2021 – podcast): “This was a pretty seismic set of midterm elections”—Boris Johnson’s triumph

Chris Mason, BBC News (May 10, 2021): Analysis: Is the Green Party on the rise – and if so, why?

Reuters (May 9, 2021): Scottish nationalists vow independence vote after election win

Mark Landler, New York Times (May 8, 2021): Scotland Election Results Complicate Hopes for Independence Referendum

Wall Street Journal (May 7, 2021): Britain’s Political Realignment: The Tories continue to gain in the former Labour heartland.

Bianca Nobilo, CNN (May 7, 2021 – video): CNN reporter on UK by-election result in Hartlepool: ‘Shattering defeat for Labour’

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.

AFP (May 12, 2021): Out of politics, pony-tailed Podemos founder cuts hair

Daniel Dombey, Financial Times (May 7, 2021): Isabel Díaz Ayuso: the Spanish right’s saviour

Wall Street Journal (May 5, 2021): Madrid Votes for Freedom

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

Tobias Rüttershoff and Teona Lavrelashvili, Euractiv (May 11, 2021): Albania has voted – will it be a new momentum for its EU path?

Giorgia Orlandi, Euronews (May 10, 2021): “Europe is a religion, and nobody can betray this religion in Albania,” said Albania’s Prime Minister

Fjori Sinoruka, Balkan Insight (May 10, 2021): Albania’s Opposition Stands at Crossroads After Election Rout

Peter Tase, Eurasia Review (May 9, 2021): Albania: Edi Rama Maintains An Iron Grip On Power – OpEd

Jacopo Barigazzi, Politico (May 7, 2021): EU commissioner floats shift on Albania membership talks

Llazar Semini, AP (May 7, 2021): Albanian lawmakers to investigate president for impeachment

Tal Schneider, Times of Israel (May 7, 2021): After Knesset election-rama, Israeli political advisers turn to Tirana

Jona Koprencka, bne Intellinews (May 5, 2021): COMMENT: “Patronagists” scandal brings back memories of the communist era in Albania

Regional Analysis

Julia Bergin, The Conversation (May 12, 2021): How China used the media to spread its COVID narrative — and win friends around the world

Harun Karčić, RUSI (May 11, 2021): Democratic Backsliding in Europe: Who is to Blame?

Jamie Dettmer, Voice of America (May 10, 2021): Europe’s Social Democratic Parties Struggle for Electoral Relevancy 

Europe Elections in 2021 and 2022

Croatia Local Elections: May 16, 2021

Cyprus Parliamentary Elections: May 30, 2021

Latvia Local Elections: June 5, 2021

Germany, Saxony-Anhalt State Elections: June 6, 2021

Finland Municipal Elections: June 13, 2021

France Regional Elections: June 13, 2021

Bulgaria Fresh Parliamentary Elections: July 11, 2021

Norway Parliamentary Elections: September 13, 2021

Iceland Parliamentary Elections: September 25, 2021

Germany Bundestag Elections, plus state elections in Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and probably Thuringia: September 26, 2021

Austria, Upper Austria State and Municipal Elections: September 26, 2021

Czech Republic Parliamentary Elections: October 8-9, 2021

Italy Municipal Elections, plus regional elections in Calabria: October 10-11, 2021

Estonia Local Elections: October 17, 2021

North Macedonia Local Elections: October 2021 (due)

Portugal Local Elections: October 2021 (due)

Bulgaria Presidential Election: October/November 2021 (due)

Denmark Regional and Municipal Elections: November 16, 2021

Kosovo Local Elections: Due in 2021

Serbia Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: March/April 2022

France Presidential Election: April 2022 (due)

Austria Presidential Election: April 2022 (due)

Hungary Parliamentary Elections: April 2022 (due)

Slovenia Parliamentary Elections: By June 5, 2022

Malta Parliamentary Elections: June 2022 (due – snap elections possible)

Sweden Parliamentary Elections: September 11, 2022

Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 2022 (due)

Latvia Parliamentary Elections: October 2022 (due)

Slovenia Presidential Election: October/November 2022 (due)

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