Europe This Week: September 1, 2021

September 1, 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 Viktuals Market in Munich. Germany holds elections on September 26 that will decide who succeeds Angela Merkel. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Paul Louis (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

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

AFP/The Local (September 3, 2021): Why is Norway’s football manager calling for people to vote against the government?

Nerijus Adomaitis, Reuters (August 31, 2021): Climate change in election spotlight in oil giant Norway

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

Jelena Ćirić, Iceland Review (September 1, 2021): First Election Debate Covered Economy, Climate, and Healthcare

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 begun to rival SPD 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, in recent weeks, SPD has bounced back in the polls, making the election anyone’s game and increasing the likelihood that Germany ends up with three-party governing coalition for the first time in decades.

The Economist (September 2, 2021): Germany’s election, seen through the bottom of a glass: Conservative Bavarians and left-wing Berliners agree on beer but little else

Matthew Karnitschnig and Hans von der Burchard, Politico (September 1, 2021): Social Democrat Scholz channels Merkel to lead German election race

Euractiv (September 1, 2021): Scholz challenged over potential coalition with leftists

The Economist (August 31 , 2021 – podcast): “It’s extraordinary just how volatile this election campaign has turned out to be”—tumult in Germany

Stratfor (August 31, 2021 – podcast): Essential Geopolitics: Germany’s Election Begins a Future Without Merkel

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.

AFP (August 27, 2021): Austria’s former far-right vice chancellor convicted of corruption

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

Robert Muller, AP (September 2, 2021): Seeking re-election, Czech PM pledges to keep migrants, Brussels at bay

Peter Laca, Bloomberg (August 31, 2021): Czech Prosecutors Delay Decision Whether to Charge Tycoon Leader

James Shotter, Financial Times (August 29, 2021): Czech anti-establishment Pirate party eyes first shot at government: Ivan Bartos hopes to woo voters tired of country’s billionaire prime minister Andrej Babis

Estonia Local Elections: October 17, 2021 (following an indirect presidential election that began on August 30)

Estonia – a poster child for a successful post-communist transition to democracy – holds local elections on October 16, following an indirect presidential election on August 30.

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 sought re-election. However, the government nominated Alar Karis, director of the Estonian National Museum, and Karis ended up winning.

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

Aaron Eglitis, Bloomberg Quint (August 31, 2021): Estonia Replaces President Who Helped Sink Last Government

Louis Westendarp, Politico (August 31, 2021): Estonia elects museum boss as new president

Jari Baker, AP (August 30, 2021): Estonia’s Parliament Fails to Elect President in First Round

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.

Krassen Nikolov, Euractiv (September 1, 2021): Vandalised Bulgarian flag provokes new tensions between Sofia, Skopje

AP (August 31, 2021): North Macedonia, Greece, see trade boost after key name deal

Jasmina Kuzmanovic, Bloomberg (August 30, 2021): Balkan State’s EU Entry Talks Hang on Bulgarian Political Crisis

Bulgaria Presidential Election: November 14, 2021 and Snap Parliamentary Elections (Likely – TBD)

Bulgaria is holding a presidential election on September 14, and will probably hold a third set of parliamentary elections since it looks like 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 the Socialists refused. Therefore, there is a strong chance of a third election, possibly around the time of the presidential election. More

Reuters (September 2, 2021): Bulgaria faces fresh elections as Socialists refuse to form a government

AP (September 2, 2021): Bulgaria to hold presidential elections on Nov. 14

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. 

Roger Cohen, New York Times (September 2, 2021): The French Left Is in Disarray, but Here Comes Anne Hidalgo: The charismatic and divisive socialist mayor of Paris is eyeing an office that has been occupied by eight male presidents over six decades.

France24 (September 2, 2021 – video): The future of Marseille: a key theme in next year’s French presidential election?

Tom Wheeldon, France24 (September 1, 2021): Macron plans to tackle Marseille’s drug crime, with eye on re-election

Robert Zaretsky, Forward (August 31, 2021): The French Tucker Carlson is Jewish, xenophobic — and maybe a presidential candidate

John Lichfield, The Local (August 31, 2021): ANALYSIS: Which of the 30 candidates has any chance of winning France’s 2022 presidential election?

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.

Sasa Dragojlo, Balkan Insight (August 31, 2021): Green Shoots in Serbia a Worry for Ruling Party and Opponents

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.

Balázs Gulyás, The Bulwark (September 1, 2021): An Open Letter to Tucker Carlson from a Hungarian Conservative

Euractiv/AFP (August 31, 2021): Budapest mayor obtains vote on China university in blow for Orban

RFE/RL (August 30, 2021): Hungary’s Election Authority Approves Bid To Hold Referendum On Chinese University

Past Europe Elections

Romania Parliamentary Elections: December 6, 2020

Romania held parliamentary elections on December 6. Amid low turnout due partly to COVID-19, the scandal-plagued leftist Social Democrats (PSD) unexpectedly came in first place. However, a coalition of parties formed a center-right government, headed by Florin Cîțu from the center-right National Liberal Party (PNL). More

Reuters (September 2, 2021): Romania coalition at risk after junior party pulls support for PM

Andrei Chirileasa, Romania Insider (September 1, 2021): Romania’s ruling coalition on the brink of break due to dispute on EUR 10 bln development program

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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: November 14, 2021

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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