Europe This Week: August 11, 2021

August 11, 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.

The old town of Tallinn, Estonia. Estonia’s indirect presidential election kicks off a massive European election cycle in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. Photo credit:
Wikimedia/Pöllö (CC BY 3.0)

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, and has been campaigning to be re-elected, although she will likely face opponents. Candidates register just a few days before the election, and new candidates can enter the race after the first round of voting, creating a high degree of uncertainty. Moreover, if parliament fails to elect a president – which requires a two-thirds majority – the process moves to an electoral college consisting of members of parliament and local government representatives (this happened in 2016).

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 (August 11, 2021): Former foreign minister to run as Isamaa Tallinn mayoral candidate

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

Holly Ellyatt, CBNC (August 11, 2021): The Greens were once favorites ahead of Germany’s ‘rollercoaster’ election, but not anymore

Stefan Dege, DW (August 11, 2021): Election posters in Germany: Underrated eye-catchers

The Economist (August 10, 2021): Our new prediction model for Germany’s wide-open election: Angela Merkel’s successor could be left, right or Green

Philip Oltermann, The Guardian (August 9, 2021): German election frontrunners fail to impress with flood response: Poll ratings of CDU and Green candidates take a hit and could result in complex coalition negotiations

Larissa Stünkel and Marc Lanteigne, The Diplomat (August 6, 2021): How a German Frigate in the South China Sea May Upend Beijing-Berlin Relations: As Merkel’s lengthy term comes to an end, the frigate deployment may be the beginning of a sea change in Germany’s China approach.

Marcel Fürstenau, DW (August 5, 2021): German election: Social Democrats gaining ground — opinion poll

Czech Republic Parliamentary Elections: October 8-9, 2021

The Czech Republic has scheduled parliamentary elections for October 8-9, 2021. The current prime minister, controversial billionaire Andrej Babiš, came to power following the 2017 parliamentary elections. His populist ANO party won a plurality, but not majority, of seats, and he has had a turbulent tenure in office. More

Reuters (August 9, 2021): Czech government opts for interim spymaster amid political row

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. In the last general elections, in 2018, no party won a clear majority, but Giuseppe Conte, linked to the populist Five Star Movement, was able to form a government in coalition with the right-wing Lega. Lega withdrew in 2019, but Conte was able to do a deal with two left-of-center parties. 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, ousting Conte.

Reuters (August 7, 2021): Italy’s 5-Star Movement elects former PM Conte as leader

North Macedonia Local Elections: October 17, 2021

North Macedonia is holds local elections on October 17, 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.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight (August 11, 2021): North Macedonia Opposition Cries Foul Over Pre-Election Giveaway to Municipalities

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.

Peter Jones, Harvard Political Review (August 11, 2021): Is Kosovo Approaching Its Moment of Reckoning?

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. 

The Times of London (August 11, 2021): The Times view on French politics: Macron’s Challenge The president has to contend with suspicion, anger and a sour mood

Liv Klingert, Politico (August 9, 2021): Priest’s killing stokes political tensions over immigration in France

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.

David Boaz, Cato Institute (August 11, 2021): Is Orban Protecting Hungary from Libertarianism?

Jonathan Haltiwanger, Business Insider (August 9, 2021): Viktor Orbán censored a question Tucker Carlson asked about Xi Jinping, after the Fox host suggested Hungary was ‘freer’ than the US

Ross Douthat, New York Times (August 7, 2021): Why Hungary Inspires So Much Fear and Fascination

RFE/RL (August 6, 2021): Under Fire From Brussels, Orban Says He Expects Outside ‘Interference’ In Hungary’s 2022 Election

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

Ivan Pepic, New Eastern Europe (August 11, 2021): Intra-ethnic outbidding: an impediment to electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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.

In August, the coalition lost its majority after one of the small coalition partners withdrew. However, the government will remain in power unless it loses a confidence vote (which would require two-thirds of parliament).

Vanessa Gera, AP (August 11, 2021): Polish lawmakers pass bill seen as limiting media freedom

Steven Erlanger and Monika Pronczuk, New York Times (August 11, 2021): Poland’s Government Wins Vote on Media Bill, Despite Losing Majority

Jan Cienski, Politico (August 6, 2021): The 5 looming crises in Polish politics: If things go wrong for the ruling United Right coalition, the country could see a snap election.

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 (ITN), 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 ITN surpassed GERB to win the most seats, but not enough for a majority. ITN was not able to form a government, and there’s a strong chance of a third election. More

Tsvetelia Tsolova, Reuters (August 11, 2021): New Bulgaria polls loom after ITN party gives up on forming government

Christian Oliver, Politico (August 10, 2021): Showman Trifonov predicts third Bulgarian election amid political impasse: Trifonov has failed to muster wide support for a Cabinet that will define the country’s politics in the era after ex-Prime Minister Boyko Borissov

Reuters (August 6, 2021): Bulgaria’s anti-elite ITN party proposes minority government

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.

The 2021 elections were more like a midterm as Cyprus is a presidential system (the only full presidential system in the EU). 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

Georgios Samaras, The Conversation (August 6, 2021): Cyprus: what is Elam, the far-right nationalist party seeking success after the demise of Golden Dawn?

Ireland General Elections: February 8, 2020

Ireland held general elections on February 8, 2020, to elect the Dáil Éireann (lower house of parliament) and choose the next government. These elections saw support decline for the two parties that had long been dominant and which had alternated stints in power: Fine Gael (which headed the government prior to 2020) and Fianna Fáil.

The differences between the two go back to the Irish Civil War of 1923. In the present era, their policies aren’t that different – both are generally centrist to center-right, although Fine Gael tends to be more free market on economic issues and liberal on social issues, while Fianna Fáil is more socially conservative and favors more government involvement in the economy.

Sinn Féin came in first in the 2020 elections, with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in second and third respectively, and the Greens upper their seat share significantly. It represented a new fragmentation in Irish politics. Ultimately, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael formed a coalition, thus demoting Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar from Taoiseach (prime minister) to Tánaiste (deputy prime minister). The next elections are due by February 2025, although snap elections could happen.

Henry Hill, The Spectator (August 9, 2021): Sinn Fein’s troubling veneration of terrorists

Harry McGee, Irish Times (August 7, 2021): Harry McGee: Dutchification of Irish politics inevitable: Fragmentation of electoral landscape to come more into play as Sinn Féin advances

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 17, 2021

Bulgaria Presidential Election: October/November 2021 (due)

Denmark Regional and Local 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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