Europe This Week: July 7, 2021

July 7, 2021

Your weekly review 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.

OSCE election observers at a polling station during Bulgaria’s April 2021 elections. Because no party was able to form a government following those elections, Bulgaria heads to the polls again on July 11. Photo credit: Flickr/OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

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

Svetoslav Todorov, Balkan Insight (July 8, 2021): Bulgaria’s Knife-Edge Election Could Deliver Political Earthquake

Reuters (July 8, 2021): Bulgaria’s new anti-elite faction tied with GERB ahead of Sunday snap polls

Aleksia Petrova, SeeNews (July 7, 2021): Bulgaria’s GERB-UDF holds slim lead over TISP ahead of July 11 snap vote – polls

Sofia Globe (July 5, 2021): Bulgaria’s elections: Caretaker Interior Minister alleges Borissov’s party bought votes

Krassen Nikolov, Euractiv (July 5, 2021): Former Bulgarian PM Borissov meets Turkey’s Erdogan ahead of elections

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

Germany is holding 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 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

Laurenz Gehrke, Politico (July 6, 2021): German CDU unveils post-Merkel campaign slogan

Guy Chazan and Erika Solomon, Financial Times (July 6, 2021): Greens argue case for reforming Germany’s strict fiscal rules: Party calls for overhauling debt brake to enable spending on climate revolution

Stefano Graziosi and James Jay Carafano, The National Interest (July 4, 2021): Biden Could Be the German Election’s Biggest Loser

Luke Hurst, Euronews (July 1, 2021): How did the ‘Green Wave’ suddenly lose momentum for the upcoming German elections?

Austria, Upper Austria State and Municipal Elections: September 26, 2021 and Presidential Election: April 2022 (due)

Austria’s Upper Austria (whose capital is Linz, home of the Linzertorte cake) state holds elections in September.

Austria’s federal government fell in a no-confidence vote – the first in Austria’s history – in May 2019 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. Subsequent snap elections gave ÖVP the most seats, and the FPÖ saw a 10 percent loss in its vote share. Ultimately, ÖVP formed a coalition with the Greens, and Kurz once again became chancellor.

Austria is due to hold a presidential election by April 2022, but the role is largely ceremonial, with the chancellor instead holding most executive power.

Emily Schultheis, Politico (July 7, 2021): The rise and fall of Heinz-Christian Strache, Austria’s far-right firebrand

Euronews/AFP (July 6, 2021): Ibizagate: Former Austrian vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache faces corruption trial

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.

Euronews (July 7, 2021): Italian mayors march in Rome demanding respect

North Macedonia Local Elections: October 2021 (due)

North Macedonia is due to hold local elections in October 2021. These follow parliamentary elections in July 2020. Following a historic agreement with Greece, and a name change, North Macedonia joined NATO in 2020 and is currently in talks to join the EU (although now Bulgaria is trying to hold that up). The country’s politics are fragmented and fractious. The 2020 elections were extremely close, but ultimately PM Zoran Zaev and his Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) were able to once again form a government with the backing of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the main ethnic Albanian party (ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of the population).

SDSM also controls most of the municipalities heading into the upcoming local elections, having beaten the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE in a majority of municipalities and ousting the VMRO-DMPNE mayor of Skopje.

Aleksandar Samardjiev, OBC Transeuropa (July 7, 2021): North Macedonia: DUI, from ethnic party to ecological movement?

Goce Trpkovski, Balkan Insight (July 5, 2021): Zoran Dimitrovski: North Macedonia’s Smaller Parties Must Challenge the Dominant Blocs

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. A number of opposition parties plan to hold a primary to field a single candidate for prime minister. Gergely Karácsony, the liberal mayor of Budapest, is seen by many as a leading candidate to challenge Orbán.

Lorne Cooke, AP (July 7, 2021): Lawmakers press EU over Hungary, Poland rights concerns

Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic (July 6, 2021): The Autocrat’s Legacy: Defeating Viktor Orbán will be hard, but undoing Hungary’s democratic decline will be harder.

Mátyás Mervay, Visegrad Insight (July 6, 2021): Flipping the Script on Beijing: Hungarian Opposition Revives Orbán’s Normative China Criticism

Nathan Law, Politico (July 5, 2021): Letter to Orbán from a Hong Kong activist: Hungary must no longer hinder our fight for freedom.

Frida Ghitis, World Politics Review (July 1, 2021): Orban’s Anti-LGBTQ Law Crosses a Red Line for Europe

France Presidential Election: April 10 and 24, 2022, followed by Legislative Elections: June 2022 (due)

France holds presidential and legislative elections in spring 2022. These follow the June 2021 regional elections, in which the far-right failed to make gains that had been predicted by pre-election polls. The regional elections put the center-right Republicans in a stronger position to challenge President Emmanuel Macron, although the far-right Marine Le Pen plans to mount a vigorous campaign. 

Charles Brenner, The Times of London (July 7, 2021): Right turn ahead: Macron woos nationalist voters to safeguard his future

AFP (July 7, 2021): Can French green party turn local gains into national springboard?

AP (July 4, 2021): French far-right chief lays out plans for presidential race

Reuters (July 4, 2021): France’s Le Pen: we will not return to the old National Front

Sandrine Amiel, Euronews (July 2, 2021): Has Marine Le Pen’s ‘normalisation’ strategy taken the French far-right out of the running?

Slovenia Parliamentary Elections: By June 5, 2022 – snap elections possible

Slovenia is due to hold elections in June 2022, but snap elections are possible. The current government is a conservative minority coalition headed by populist Janez Janša. It came to power in January 2020 after the center-left minority government of Marjan Šarec collapsed.

Jack Parrott, DW (July 6, 2021): Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa on the defensive

Sweden Parliamentary Elections: September 11, 2022

Sweden’s next elections are not due until September 2022, but in June 2021, the left-leaning coalition led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven fell in a no-confidence vote. Lofven was re-elected PM, but could fall in yet another no-confidence vote if his government cannot pass a budget.

Johan Ahlander and Niklas Pollard, Reuters (July 7, 2021): Sweden’s Lofven re-elected PM but budget blockage may force him to quit anew

Poland Parliamentary Elections: Fall 2023 (snap elections possible)

Poland is due to hold parliamentary elections in fall 2023, but snap elections are possible if the three-party government headed by the conservative Law and Justice does not hold together.

Piotr Skolimowski, Bloomberg (July 7, 2021): Poland’s Civic Platform Gets Small Boost From Tusk Comeback

James Shotter, Financial Times (July 3, 2021): Donald Tusk returns on a mission to shake up Polish politics: Former prime minister hopes to revive struggling opposition and dethrone ruling Law and Justice party

Past Europe Elections

United Kingdom Parliamentary By-Election in Batley and Spen: July 1, 2021

The UK parliamentary constituency of Batley and Spen held a by-election on July 1 after Labourite Tracy Brabin resigned her parliamentary seat following her election as Mayor of West Yorkshire in the May local elections. The Conservatives campaigned hard and had expected to win, but Labour held the seat, although by just 323 votes.

Sebastian Payne, Financial Times (July 5, 2021): UK politics return to normal with Tory by-election loss: Labour’s Batley and Spen win shows that the pandemic is no longer dominating the discourse

Croatia Local Elections: May 16 and 30, 2021

Croatia held local elections for on May 16, and with runoffs on May 30, 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). Tomislav Tomasevic from the green-left “We Can!” coalition ultimately won the mayoral runoff.

James McBride, Council on Foreign Relations (July 7, 2021): How Green-Party Success Is Reshaping Global Politics

Steve Rushton, openDemocracy (July 3, 2021): ‘We Can!’ – a new Green-Left coalition takes over Croatia’s capital

Bosnia and Herzegovina Local Elections: November 15, 2020

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) held local elections on November 15, 2020.The elections took place in the context of gridlock and ethno-nationalism, but the results delivered a blow to the three main ethnic-based political parties, with opposition forces winning in Sarajevo and other key cities. More

Rémy Ourdan, Le Monde (July 5, 2021): Meet Benjamina Karic, Sarajevo’s New Millennial Mayor

Jasmin Mujanovic, Balkan Insight (July 2, 2021): Bosnia Needs Real Electoral Reform, Not More Segregation

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.

The Economist (July 3, 2021): Montenegro’s government totters. But the alternatives may be worse

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

bne Intellinews (July 8, 2021): Slovak court says referendum on snap election would be unconstitutional

AP (July 7, 2021): Slovakia’s top court dismisses referendum on early election

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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 10 and 24, 2022

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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