Europe This Week: July 21, 2021

July 21, 2021

A 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.

A campaign bus in Tartu, Estonia, ahead of the 2014 European elections. Estonia holds local elections in October, as well as an indirect presidential election in August. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Kamma (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

Estonia Indirect Presidential Election: August 30, 2021 and Local Elections: October 17, 2021

Estonia – a poster child for a successful post-communist transition to democracy – will hold an indirect presidential election starting on August 30 and local elections on October 17, 2021. In Estonia’s parliamentary system, the president plays a largely ceremonial and representative role, with no executive power. The Riigikogu (parliament) elects the president. Incumbent Kersti Kaljulaid is eligible to run for another term.

Since January 2021, Estonia’s government has been a grand coalition of the center-right Reform Party and the centrist Centre Party, which has historically been supported by Estonia’s Russian community. Following the 2019 elections, Centre shocked the country by forming a government with the far-right EKRE, but PM Juri Ratas was forced to resign in January 2021 following a real estate scandal. Subsequently, Reform – previously in opposition – formed a coalition with Centre as the junior partner, making Reform’s Kaja Kallas Estonia’s first female prime minister. More

ERR News (July 21, 2021): EKRE presidential candidate Henn Põlluaas’ starts campaign tour

ERR News (July 15, 2021): Kallas: We have president candidate in mind, now need persuading to run

Norway Parliamentary Elections: September 13, 2021

Norway holds parliamentary elections on September 13, 2021. Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who heads a center-right coalition, has been in office since 2013. More

Laura Smith-Spark, CNN (July 22, 2021): A far-right extremist killed 77 people in Norway. A decade on, ‘the hatred is still out there’ but attacker’s influence is seen as low

Richard Milne, Financial Times (July 19, 2021): Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg says Oslo remains committed to oil and gas

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

Melissa Eddy, New York Times (July 21, 2021): German Candidates Fail to Find Footing in Flood Response

Roger Boyes, Times of London (July 21, 2021): Germany’s Greens are choking on the verge of power

Erika Solomon, Financial Times (July 20, 2021): German government pledges €200m in flood aid: Figure will be added to €250m contributed by regional governments for rebuilding devastated areas

Kristine Berzina, Corinna Blutguth, and David Metzger, GMF’s Alliance for Securing Democracy (July 19, 2021): Between Messaging and Manipulation: How Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran Engaged in German Political Discourses in June 2021

Bojan Pancevski, Wall Street Journal (July 18, 2021): Germany’s Flooding Rearranges Political Picture Ahead of Election to Succeed Merkel

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.

Reuters (July 21, 2021): Political furor in Italy after far-right League councilor kills Moroccan immigrant

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.

Aleksander Brezar, Euronews (July 20, 2021): Could North Macedonia be the graveyard of the EU’s ideals? 

Kosovo Local Elections: Due in 2021

Kosovo is due to hold local elections in 2021. These follow  snap parliamentary elections that took place in February 2021. In those elections, Kosovo held on February 14. The left-wing nationalist Vetëvendosje won, potentially jeopardizing any resolution to a long-standing territorial dispute with Serbia. However, the new prime minister, Albin Kurti has also advocated for closer ties with the United States and Europe.

Gjeraqina Tuhina, RFE/RL (July 19, 2021): Serbia-Kosovo Talks Make No Progress, Each Side Blames The Other

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.

Luke McGee, Amy Cassidy, and Boglarka Kosztolanyi, CNN (July 21, 2021): Hungary plans referendum on law criticized by EU as homophobic

Meghan Poff, New Eastern Europe (July 20, 2021): Budapest, Beijing, Brussels and beyond: A conversation on Viktor Orbán’s China policy

Lili Bayer, Politico (July 19, 2021): Hungarian spyware scandal bolsters fears of Orbán critics

Amanda Coakley, Foreign Policy (July 17, 2021): Hungary’s Opposition Smells Blood in the Water: After three straight electoral victories by Viktor Orban, an unlikely coalition senses a chance to halt the country’s slide into authoritarianism

RFE/RL (July 16, 2021): Hungarian PM Says EU Action On LGBT Rights Amounts To ‘Legal Hooliganism’

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. 

Ania Nussbaum, Bloomberg (July 21, 2021): The Anti-Macron Independent Looking to Topple France’s President

Robert Zaretsky, Slate (July 20, 2021): The Tough New COVID Rules That Could Determine the Future of France

Rym Momtaz, Politico (July 19, 2021): Macron heads to the heartlands to kickstart reelection drive: With jambon and chanson, the president moves to win over France’s heartlands.

David Keohane, Financial Times (July 19, 2021): Macron dithers on nuclear power investment as issue divides France

Bosnia and Herzegovina General Elections: October 2022 (due)

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is due to hold general elections in October 2020. The 202 local elections, which took place in the context of gridlock and ethno-nationalism, delivered a blow to the three main ethnic-based political parties, with opposition forces winning in Sarajevo and other key cities. BiH faces a number of problems, including poor economic prospects, incompetent governance, and bitter political fights. More

Al Jazeera (July 19, 2021): Critics condemn minister’s call to unite ‘Serb world’

Y.Z., Sarajevo Times (July 18, 2021): Covic: Without amendments to the Election Law, there will be no elections next year

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.

The Economist (July 24, 2021): Donald Tusk has taken over as leader of Poland’s main opposition party

Reuters (July 16, 2021): Poland’s Tusk says conflicts with EU could eventually end the bloc

Past Europe Elections

Bulgaria Snap Parliamentary Elections: July 11, 2021

Bulgaria held fresh parliamentary elections on July 11 after no party formed a government following the April 4 elections. In the April 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.  In the July elections, Trifonov’s party surpassed GERB to win the most seats, but not enough for a majority. It remains unclear what the new government will look like, and a third election is not impossible. More

Svetoslav Todorov, Balkan Insight (July 22, 2021): Bulgaria’s Winning Party Makes Sudden U-Turn on Coalition Talks

RFE/RL (July 21, 2021): Bulgarian Parliament Meets For First Session After Razor-Thin Election Result

Reuters (July 15, 2021): Bulgaria anti-elite party drops PM nominee in bid to form government

Tom Junes, Balkan Insight (July 15, 2021): Snap Elections Fail to Calm Bulgaria’s Political Instability

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

Exit Albania (July 16, 2021): Albanian Opposition’s Analysis of April Elections Blames Loss on Socialist Majority

Euronews/AP (July 14, 2021): Former Albanian police officer jailed for killing that sparked major protests

Cyprus Parliamentary Elections: May 30, 2021

Cyprus held parliamentary elections on May 23, 2021. The center-right DISY – currently in the majority – maintained its majority, defeating the center-left AKEL, the main opposition party (with a number of smaller parties also competing). Notably, the far-right ELAM doubled its vote share from the 2016 elections, winning 6.8 percent of the vote.

Cyprus is a presidential system (the only full presidential system in the EU), so these elections 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

Hannah Lucinda Smith, The Times of London (July 20, 2021): Cypriot peace in crisis as Erdogan backs two-state solution

Menelaos Hadjicostis, AP (July 19, 2021): Turkish president: Two-state deal only way for Cyprus peace

Lithuania Parliamentary Elections: October 11, 2020 and October 25, 2020

Lithuania held parliamentary elections in October 2020. A center-right coalition led by Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS–LKD) defeated the incumbent populist Farmers and Greens. Following the elections, a coalition of four parties – all led by women – formed a government, with Ingrida Šimonytė as the country’s first female prime minister.

Edward Lucas, Times of London (July 19, 2021): Lithuania leads way in standing up to China

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.

Andy Hall and Jasna Vukicevic, RFE/RL (July 22, 2021): In Political Power Play, Montenegrin Mayor Goes ‘All In’ On Former Yugoslav Royals

Milica Stojanovic and Samir Kajosevic, Balkan Insi`ght (July 16, 2021): Yugoslav Ex-Royals Urge Montenegro to Return Confiscated Property

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Estonia Indirect Presidential Election: August 30, 2021 (by parliament)

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

Portugal Local Elections: 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)

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

France Legislative Elections: June 12 and 19, 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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