Europe This Week: August 18, 2021

August 18, 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.

Laugarvegur, a major commercial street in Reykjavik. Early voting has already started for Iceland’s September elections. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Christian Bickel (public domain)

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

Andreas Ventsel, ERR News (August 18, 2021): What exactly is the president’s symbolic power?

ERR News (August 15, 2021): Parties agree presidential election system needs changes

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

Richard Milne, Financial Times (August 18, 2021): Norway’s oil fund propelled to 9% return by strong equity performance: Energy was best-performing sector in second quarter for world’s largest sovereign fund

Ole Ketil Helgesen, Upstream Online (August 18, 2021): Norway’s likely next government aims to stop exploration in new areas – The likely new coalition government has been in compromise discussions for months, sources told Upstream (August 18, 2021): Conflicts plague both the right and left

Lars Erik Taraldsen, Bloomberg (August 11, 2021): Norway Parties Brace for Oil Showdown as UN Report Fuels Debate

Iceland Parliamentary Elections: September 25, 2021

Iceland holds elections for the Althing, its parliament (which has a strong claim to the title of 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

Valur Grettisson, Reykjavik Grapevine (August 13, 2021): Early Voting For Parliamentary Elections Has Begun

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

Reuters (August 18, 2021): German SPD overtakes Greens, close in on conservatives before election

William Noah Glucroft, DW (August 17, 2021): German politicians fret about refugees from Afghanistan

Marcus Colla, Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter (August 16, 2021): Germany’s federal election:
choose any colour you like – The looming headache of Germany’s coalition arrangements will play out again this September.

Laurenz Gehrke, Politico (August 16, 2021): Bavaria’s Söder rules out replacing Laschet as German conservatives’ lead candidate: Polls show the Bavarian leader is still more popular than Armin Laschet, but Markus Söder says ‘the ballots are printed, the posters are pasted, it’s been decided.’

Arne Delfs, Bloomberg (August 14, 2021): Merkel’s Faltering Heir Upends Germany’s Election Predictability: Armin Laschet’s campaign is struggling and that’s turning the race for chancellor into a toss-up.

The Economist (August 14, 2021): German voters deserve a more serious election campaign

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.

Dario Cristiani, World Politics Review (August 18, 2021): Can Italy’s Draghi Keep Up His Winning Streak?

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

Tim Gosling, Balkan Insight (August 18, 2021): Czech Pirates under attack

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.

Perparim Isufi, Balkan Insight (August 13, 2021): Kosovo Parties Ponder Joint Mayoral Candidates in Serb-Majority Areas

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. 

Virginie Martin, The Conversation (August 17, 2021): The south of France is a Marine Le Pen stronghold – but has she hit a ceiling?

Kim Willsher, The Guardian (August 17, 2021): Macron accused of pandering to far right over Afghan crisis

The Economist (August 12, 2021): Why so many French people fear dictatorship and civil war

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.

Caroline Vakil, The Hill (August 18, 2021): Serbian president dares Twitter to delete his account

Sasa Dragojlo, Balkan Insight (August 18, 2021): Think Tank Defends Serbia Hosting Secret Afghan Govt-Taliban Talks

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).

AFP (August 17, 2021): Ex-coalition partner hits out at ‘fanatical’ Polish leader

Therese Raphael, Bloomberg (August 16, 2021): Why Poland Is Getting on the Nerves of the U.S. and the EU

James Shotter, Financial Times (August 15, 2021): Poland’s weakened coalition raises prospect of early election

Bernard Osser, AFP (August 14, 2021): Poland’s ruling populists risk isolation in bid to stay in power

AFP (August 12, 2021): Punk rocker emerges as Poland’s improbable powerbroker

Silvia Amaro, Reuters (August 12, 2021): Poland pushes through new media law and angers the U.S.

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, possibly around the time of the presidential election that is due this fall. More

RFE/RL (August 17, 2021): Surveillance Video Puts Bulgarian Police Brutality During Anti-Government Protests In Focus

Boryana Dzhambazova, Politico (August 13, 2021): How chat show host Trifonov lost Bulgaria’s election: The TV star failed to convince his critics his party presents a clean break from cronyism and corruption.

AP (August 12, 2021): Bulgaria slides into political crisis as new election looms

Valentina Dimitrievska, bne IntelliNews (August 12, 2021): Bulgaria’s inability to form government sends discouraging signals for North Macedonia’s EU path

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.

Under the present government, Lithuania has become increasingly vocal on matters related to China’s human rights record, leading other European countries to re-assess their relations with Beijing.

Reid Standish, RFE/RL (August 17, 2021): Beijing’s Spat With Lithuania Sets The Stage For Shaky New Era of Europe-China Ties

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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