Europe This Week: September 29, 2021

September 29, 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 Pyramid of Cestius in Rome, built 18-12 BC, and the Porta San Paolo. A number of Italian cities, including Rome, hold mayoral elections October 3-4. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Joris van Rooden (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

Italy, Mayoral Elections in Rome, Milan, Turin, Naples and other cities and regional elections in Calabria: October 3-4, 2021

Italy is due to hold regional elections in Calabria in the south, as well as mayoral elections in several major cities, on October 10 and 11. 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.

Gavin Jones, Reuters (September 30, 2021): Italy’s Salvini pressured by far-right as centre-left set to sweep mayors

Nick Squires, The Telegraph (September 30, 2021): Matteo Salvini’s social media guru accused of paying for drug-fuelled sex parties with escorts: Allegations come just days before millions of Italians go to the polls in local elections and have been an embarrassment for The League

Pietro Lombardi, Politico (September 28, 2021): Fall of ancient bank looms over Italy’s left in Siena vote: Siena has long been a stronghold for Italy’s center-left but the failure of Monte dei Paschi is unleashing political shockwaves.

Sky News (September 24, 2021 – video): Rome: Brazen wild boar on streets of Italian capital becomes election campaign issue – as residents left ‘scared’

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

Monika Brusenbauch Meislová Petr Suchý, London School of Economics (September 30, 2021): Czech election: Assessing the foreign policy positions of each of the main parties

Robert Muller, Reuters (September 29, 2021): Hungary’s Orban hits Czech campaign trail to back PM Babis

Prague Morning (September 28, 2021): Czech PM Candidates Clash in Pre-Election Debate Over Czexit

David Hutt, Euronews (September 27, 2021): Will the Czech elections see Prague turn its back on Russia and China?

Krystof Chamonikolas and Peter Laca, Bloomberg (September 26, 2021): Czech Premier’s Lead Narrows in Poll Before October Elections

Nick Cohen, The Spectator (September 24, 2021): China’s obsessive attempts to subvert the West

North Macedonia Local Elections: October 17, 2021

North Macedonia 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 local elections, having beaten the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE in a majority of municipalities and ousting the VMRO-DMPNE mayor of Skopje.

Aleksandar Samardjiev, OBC Transeuropa (September 29, 2021): Independent lists: will they bring more democracy to North Macedonia?

AFP (September 26, 2021): North Macedonia holds first high-stakes census, first in 20 years

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight (September 24, 2021): Women Scarce Among North Macedonia Mayoral Candidates

Kosovo Local Elections: October 17, 2021

Kosovo holds local elections on October 17, 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.

Al Jazeera (September 30, 2021): Kosovo, Serbia agree deal to end border tensions: Breakthrough negotiated in Brussels ends flare-up in hostilities triggered by dispute over vehicle licence plates.

AFP (September 27, 2021): NATO steps up patrols as Kosovo-Serbia tensions soar

Sasa Dragojlo and Perparim Isufi, Balkan Insight (September 27, 2021): Kosovo-Serbia Border Dispute ‘Driven by Internal Politics’

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

ERR News (September 28, 2021): Center Party completes bill to change presidential election system

Reuters (September 23, 2021): Russian plane enters NATO member Estonia’s airspace for 6th time this year

Bulgaria Parliamentary Elections, Take 3 and Presidential Election: November 14, 2021

Bulgaria is holding a presidential election on November 14 along with a third set of parliamentary elections since no government was formed following the July 11 elections (themselves the result of no government being formed following the original elections on April 4). In Bulgaria’s parliamentary system, the prime minister holds executive power, while the president is largely ceremonial.

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, Bulgarians will head to the polls for a third time. More

Antoaneta Dimitrova and Bernard Steunenberg, London School of Economics (September 29, 2021): What lessons can be learned from the failure to form a government in Bulgaria and the Netherlands?

RFE/RL (September 27, 2021): Ahead Of Elections, Bulgaria Urged To Improve Press Freedom

Finland County Elections: January 23, 2022

On January 23, 2022, Finland will hold elections to newly-created county councils. These councils will assume responsibility for providing healthcare (the responsibility previously fell to municipal councils).

Following the 2019 parliamentary elections, a left-leaning coalition came into government nationally. The conservative National Coalition Party won the most seats in the local elections, with the Social Democrats placing second. The far-right Finns Party made gains in its vote share. More

YLE (September 28, 2021): Smaller towns could lack representation in new regional assemblies: Finland’s regional elections will see representatives elected to new assemblies.

YLE (September 24, 2021): Low turnout predicted for January’s provincial elections

France Presidential Election: April 10 and 24, 2022, followed by Legislative Elections: June 12 and 19, 2022

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. 

Victor Mallet, Financial Times (September 29, 2021): Anti-immigration TV personality threatens to displace Le Pen in French polls

Laura Kayali and Pierre-Paul Bermingham, Politico (September 28, 2021): French Greens narrowly choose MEP Yannick Jadot as presidential candidate: Results show environmentalist voters still deeply divided over pragmatism versus more radical reforms.

France24 (September 26, 2021): Conservative Les Républicains forgo primary to choose candidate at party convention

Aude Mazque, France24 (September 24, 2021): Le Pen’s bid for French presidency off to stormy start as far-right pundit steals her thunder

The Local (September 24, 2021): Calendar: What happens and when in the 2022 French presidential election campaigns

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.

Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves, Reuters (September 30, 2021): Pro-EU Dobrev wins first round of opposition primary to take on Hungary’s Orban

Zoltan SImon, Bloomberg (September 30, 2021): Orban Foe Who’d Break the Law to Raze His Regime Leads Primaries

Eszter Zalan, Euronews (September 30, 2021): United anti-Orban opposition pins hopes on primaries

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. Magdalena Andersson, currently the finance minister, looks likely to succeed him and become Sweden’s first female prime minister.

Richard Milne, Financial Times (September 29, 2021): Finance minister on course to become Sweden’s first female PM: Magdalena Andersson nominated as leader of the ruling Social Democrats

Past Europe Elections

Germany Bundestag Elections: September 26, 2021 (plus state elections throughout the year)

Germany held several sets of elections next year, culminating in the September 26, 2021 federal parliamentary elections that will determine who succeeds Angela Merkel as chancellor. The Social Democratic Party (SPD), headed by Olaf Scholz, placed first, with 25.7 percent of the vote. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), along with its Bavarian partner Christian Social Union (CSU), suffered a historic defeat in these elections, placing second with 24.1 percent of the vote, possibly due to the personal unpopularity of its standard-bearer, Armin Laschet, who made a series of gaffes during the campaign.

A big story during the election was the rise of the Greens, who even topped opinion polls at various points, but ultimately placed third. They portrayed themselves as responsible and mainstream, choosing pragmatist Annalena Baerbock as their standard-bearer. Finally, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) placed fourth, with 11 percent of the vote, after five years of having no seats in the Bundestag (since FDP failed to meet the 5 percent threshold in the 2017 elections).

Since another “grand coalition” between CDU/CSU and SPD – the current government – is unlikely for a variety of reasons, the next government will most likely consist of three parties. It could either be a “Jamaica coalition” of CDU/CSU, FDP, and the Greens, or a “traffic light coalition” consisting of SPD, plus FDP and the Greens. The Greens and FDP are holding talks with one another before negotiating with either CDU/CSU or SPD, and reaching any sort of deal could take months.

DW (September 29, 2021): German election: Greens and FDP meet for preliminary two-way talks

Jens Kastner, Nikkei Asia (September 28, 2021): Merkel’s CDU election loss set to complicate Germany-China ties: Beijing’s biggest fear is Greens getting foreign minister role

Euronews (September 27, 2021): German election: How could a new government in Berlin affect Brussels?

Tara John, Nadine Schmidt, Stephanie Halasz and Frederik Pleitgen, CNN (September 27, 2021): Five key takeaways from Germany’s historic election

New York Times (September 27, 2021): Maps show where Merkel’s party lost ground: everywhere.

Holly Ellyatt and Matt Clinch, CNBC (September 26, 2021): Social Democrats narrowly beat Angela Merkel’s alliance in historic German election

Lorne Cook, AP (September 24, 2021): EU warns Russia over cyberattacks ahead of German elections

Erika Solomon, Financial Times (September 24, 2021): Germany’s electoral oracle struggles to divine the post-Merkel future

Portugal Local Elections: September 26, 2021

Portugal held local elections on September 26. The two main parties, center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) and leftist Socialist Party (PS), regularly alternate in power. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa from PSD won the 2016 presidential election and was re-elected in January 2021.

In the local elections, the Socialists won overall, but lost the mayoral race in Lisbon for the first time in 14 years. More

Andrei Khalip, Reuters (September 27, 2021): Portugal’s ruling Socialists lead in local elections but lose Lisbon

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.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s ÖVP remained the biggest party, but a new anti-lockdown party called People Freedom Fundamental Rights (MFG) won 6.2 percent of the vote, enough to secure seats. Meanwhile, the state of Styria held local elections, and the Communists – who normally get 1 percent of the vote nationally – won an unprecedented victory in the mayoral contest in Graz, Austria’s second-largest city.

The Local (September 28, 2021): Austrian Communist Party wins local election in Graz

Robert Krotzer, Jacobin (September 27, 2021 – interview): The Communist Party Just Won the Elections in Austria’s Second-Biggest City

Reuters (September 27, 2021): New Austrian anti-lockdown party seeking more seats after election coup

San Marino Abortion Referendum: September 26, 2021

San Marino, one of Europe’s smallest states, held a referendum on legalizing abortion on September 26, 2021. It is a controversial topic in this deeply conservative country, but the referendum overwhelmingly passed, paving the way to legalize abortion.

Caitlin Hu and Sharif Paget, CNN (September 27, 2021): San Marino votes overwhelmingly to end abortion ban

Switzerland Referendums: September 26, 2021

Switzerland holds referendums frequently (Swiss citizens are fans of direct democracy), and the most recent one was on September 26. Swiss citizens voted to legalize marriage equality.

AP (September 26, 2021): Switzerland votes to legalize same-sex marriage

Iceland Parliamentary Elections: September 25, 2021

Iceland held 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, a broad coalition of the Left-Green Movement, the conservative Independence Party, and the agrarian Progressive Party, looks likely to remain in power. More

Reuters (September 26, 2021): Vote recount deprives Iceland of Europe’s first female-majority parliament

Norway Parliamentary Elections: September 13, 2021

Norway held parliamentary elections on September 13, 2021. Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who had led a center-right coalition since 2013, suffered a defeat from the left-leaning opposition, which will now form a government (the exact makeup remains to be seen). More

Reuters (September 29, 2021): Norway’s centre-left Labour seeks to lead minority govt after Socialists ditch talks

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

RFE/RL (September 28, 2021): EU Hopes To Start Accession Talks With Albania, North Macedonia By Year’s End

Llazar Semini, AP (September 28, 2021): Albania complains its EU accession bid is being held hostage

Netherlands Parliamentary Elections: March 17, 2021

Netherlands held parliamentary elections on March 17, 2020. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right VVD once again won the most seats, but coalition negotiations continued for nearly six months after the elections. The parties finally announced that they would probably renew the four-party coalition, and remain in government. More

AFP (September 30, 2021): Dutch break coalition deadlock in boost for Rutte

DutchNews.NL (September 30, 2021): D66 gives green light to a cabinet restart with the VVD, CDA and ChristenUnie

Mike Corder, AP (September 29, 2021): Leaders of 4 Dutch parties open to renewing coalition

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 25, 2021): Romanian PM Citu wins party leadership, prolonging political stalemate

Nastia Kukunova, Foreign Brief (September 25, 2021): Romania’s Liberal Party to hold internal elections

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.

Andrew Higgins, New York Times (September 30, 2021): Lithuania vs. China: A Baltic Minnow Defies a Rising Superpower

World Politics Review (September 29, 2021 – podcast): Lithuania Tests Its Anti-Authoritarian Mettle

The Big Picture

James Lamond and Jake Morris, Defense One (September 28, 2021): It’s China, Stupid: More voters across the West are caring more about China. In the next round of elections, politicians should, too.

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Italy Municipal Elections, plus regional elections in Calabria: October 3-4, 2021

Czech Republic Parliamentary Elections: October 8-9, 2021

Estonia Local Elections: October 17, 2021

North Macedonia Local Elections: October 17, 2021

Kosovo Local Elections: October 17, 2021

Bulgaria Presidential Election: November 14, 2021

Denmark Regional and Municipal Elections: November 16, 2021

Finland County Elections: January 23, 2022

Serbia Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: April 3, 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)

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content. That is to say, their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here.

Share This