Europe This Week: August 25, 2021

August 25, 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.

Berlin’s Hackesche Höfe. Germany holds elections on September 26 that will determine who succeeds Angela Merkel, and it is anyone’s game. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Martin Abegglen (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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. However, even though Kaljulaid is popular (and polls suggest she would win a direct election), the government has nominated Alar Karis, director of the Estonian National Museum, because Ratas opposed another term for Kaljulaid.

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

Koen Verhelst, Euronews (August 25, 2021): Why is no one stepping forward to be Estonia’s next president?

ERR News (August 25, 2021): Feature: Estonia’s presidential election 2021

BNN (August 23, 2021): Estonian presidential candidate Karis gains backing of both government parties

ERR News (August 22, 2021): Center joins Reform in support for Alar Karis presidential candidacy

Sarah Lavigne, Calvert Journal (August 22, 2021): ‘You Until Death’: how one man’s music free Estonia from Soviet rule

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. She faces a serious challenge from the left-leaning opposition and the Greens. More

Stratfor (August 23, 2021): How Norway’s Election Could Impact Its Economic Future

Reuters (August 23, 2021): Police end Extinction Rebellion occupation of Norway’s oil ministry

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

The Economist (August 28, 2021): A visit to a stronghold of the AfD, Germany’s far-right party

Dhara Ranasinghe and Yoruk Bahceli, Reuters (August 25, 2021): Germany’s Sept election and why it matters to markets

Kate Connolly, The Guardian (August 25, 2021): German Greens under fire over 19th-century folk song in election ad: Greens go for wide appeal with reworked campfire song with no mention of devastating floods

Silvia Amaro, CBNC (August 25, 2021): Germany’s Social Democrats are polling ahead of Merkel’s bloc for the first time in 15 years

Astrid Prange, DW (August 24, 2021): German election: How reliable are opinion polls?

RFE/RL (August 20, 2021): Merkel Makes Farewell Trip To Meet Putin Amid ‘Deep Disagreements’

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. All four parties who have seats in the state legislature – ÖVP, FPÖ, the Social Democrats (SPÖ), and the Greens – are part of the state government.

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

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. (August 21, 2021 – in German): Upper Austria election: That’s the difference between 2021 and 2015

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

William Nattrass, Expatz_cz (August 25, 2021): Recording-breaking number of women are running in Czech elections this year

Bulgaria Snap Parliamentary Elections: July 11, 2021

Bulgaria is due to hold a presidential election in October or November, and will possibly hold a third set of parliamentary elections if no government can be formed following the July 11 elections (themselves the result of no government being formed following the original elections on April 4).

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 26, 2021): Bulgarian President To Ask Third Party To Form Government After Previous Attempts Fail

Denitsa Koseva, bne IntelliNews (August 25, 2021): New political deadlock in Bulgaria as parliament speaker says she won’t accept PM nomination

RFE/RL (August 20, 2021): Bulgaria Moves Closer To Third Election This Year After GERB Party Fails To Form Cabinet

Angel Petrov, Balkan Insight (August 20, 2021): Bulgaria is Struggling to Exit an Era of Political ‘Kings’

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.

Scott Winter, Columbia Journalism Review (August 23, 2021): “In Kosovo, everybody has their own truth”

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.

Dalibor Rohac, The Bulwark (August 24, 2021): The High-Water Mark of the New Nationalism in Central Europe?

Ábrahám Vass, Hungary Today (August 23, 2021): Opposition Primaries Procedure Begins to Find Strongest Candidates to Challenge Fidesz Next Year

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. 

Claire Gallen and Stuart Williams (August 26, 2021): Ex-Brexit negotiator Barnier announces French presidential bid

Cain Burdeau, Courthouse News (August 26, 2021): French presidential campaign revs up after summer hiatus

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

Sead Turcalo, Balkan Insight (August 26, 2021): Bosnia Must Counter Russia’s Cultivation of Far-Right Extremists

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. In August, Lofven suddenly announced his resignation, effective in November. It is unclear who will succeed him, but a possible candidate is Magdalena Andersson, currently the finance minister. She would be Sweden’s first female prime minister.

Reis Thebault, Washington Post (August 23, 2021): Sweden prime minister’s abrupt resignation upends the country and its politics

James Drew, EU Reporter (August 23, 2021): Swedish PM to step down in November ahead of 2022 elections

Ott Ummelas and Niclas Rolander, Bloomberg (August 22, 2021): Sweden’s Departing Premier Paves a Path for Finance Chief

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.

Pan Pylas, AP (August 20, 2021): Scottish Greens agree to back pro-independence government: The power-sharing deal could pave the way to another referendum on Scotland’s independence from the U.K.

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.

Aidan Scully, Harvard Political Review (August 22, 2021): The Rise of the New Sinn Féin

Regional Analysis

Misha Savic, Bloomberg (August 26, 2021): Why the EU’s Balkan Expansion Faces a Long and Winding Road

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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