Europe This Week: October 6, 2021

October 6, 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.

A street in Prague. The October 8-9 elections in the Czech Republic will be hotly contested. Photo credit:
Wikimedia/Massimo Catarinella (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

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

Karel Janicek, AP (October 6, 2021): Pandora Papers a worry for Czech PM Babis ahead of election

BBC (October 6, 2021): Czech elections: Billionaire PM asks voters for more time at top

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

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.

Perparim Isufi, Balkan Insight (October 1, 2021): Kosovo’s Ruling Party Faces Reality Check in Local Elections

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

RFE/RL (October 6, 2021): Bulgaria, North Macedonia Map Path Out Of Standoff Blocking EU Progress

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight (October 6, 2021): Borissov Pledges to End Bulgaria’s Standoff with North Macedonia

Krassen Nikolov, Euractiv (October 1, 2021): Ex-PM Borissov’s party nominates Sofia University rector for president

Svetoslav Todorov, Balkan Insight (October 1, 2021): Bulgarian Presidential Race Tightens as GERB-Backed Candidate Unveiled

EU Reporter (October 1, 2021): The re-election of pro-Russian General Radev as President of Bulgaria is threatened by professor of Latin studies

Austria, Upper Austria State and Municipal Elections: September 26, 2021 and Presidential Election: April 2022 (due)

Austria is due to hold a presidential election in April 2022, although in the country’s parliamentary system, the presidential role is largely ceremonial. Moreover, Austria’s Upper Austria (whose capital is Linz, home of the Linzertorte cake) state held 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.

Francois Murphy, Reuters (October 6, 2021): Austrian prosecutors target Kurz in bribery investigation

Matthew Karnitschnig, Politico (October 6, 2021): Austria’s Kurz under suspicion for bribery and embezzlement in corruption probe: Prosecutors believe chancellor masterminded illegal effort to pay off pollsters and journalists in his rise to power.

Oliver Noyan, Euractiv (October 1, 2021): Austrian Communists caught in controversy over praise for Lukashenko regime

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. 

Reuters (October 6, 2021): Zemmour seen breaking Macron-Le Pen duopoly in 2022 French election – poll

AFP (October 6, 2021): Surge by far-right pundit Zemmour shakes up French election

Clea Caulcutt and Pauline de Saint Remy, Politico (October 5, 2021): Michel Barnier’s French presidential bid gets fresh legs: The EU’s former Brexit negotiator is ramping up his presidential campaign and supporters see hope in how the conservatives plan to pick a candidate.

Christopher Caldwell, New York Times (October 4, 2021): A Pillar of the European Order Has Collapsed

Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times (October 1, 2021): Europe’s Social Democrats Show Signs of Life, but France Poses a Roadblock

Xiaofei Xu and Saskya Vandoorne, CNN (September 30, 2021): Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of illegal campaign financing, receives 1-year sentence

Jonathan Miller, The Spectator (September 29, 2021): The demise of Marine Le Pen

Slovenia Parliamentary Elections: By June 5, 2022 – snap elections possible

Slovenia is due to hold elections in June 2022, but snap elections are possible. The current government is a conservative minority coalition headed by populist Janez Janša. It came to power in January 2020 after the center-left minority government of Marjan Šarec collapsed.

DW (October 5, 2021): Slovenia: Police disperse protesters ahead of EU summit

Alem Maksuti, Balkan Insight (October 4, 2021): Slovenian Opposition Must Grasp Opportunity for Different Social Order

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. Moreover, he has become increasingly friendly with China.

A number of opposition parties are holding a primary to field a single candidate for prime minister. Three candidates are advancing to the runoff: European Parliament vice president Klara Dobrev from the liberal Democratic Coalition, Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony from the center-left, and conservative independent Peter Marki-Zay. The winner will challange Orbán in the general election.

Justin Spike, AP (October 1, 2021): Three candidates advance in Hungary’s first national primary

Zoltan Simon, Bloomberg (September 30, 2021): Orban Foe Seeking to Raze His Regime Vaults to Primary Lead

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

Srecko Latal, Balkan Insight (October 5, 2021): Radical Rhetoric in Bosnia Revives Fears of New Conflict

Reuters (September 30, 2021): Bosnia’s peace envoy hopes for electoral reform before 2022 vote

Past Europe Elections

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

Italy held hold regional elections in Calabria in the south, as well as mayoral elections in several major cities, on October 3 and 4. The center-left was the big winner of the day.

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.

Justin Klawans, Newsweek (October 6, 2021): Far-Right Granddaughter of Benito Mussolini Wins Election as Rome City Councilor

Angelo Amante and Gavin Jones, Reuters (October 4, 2021): Centre-left wins Italian mayoral elections, 5-Star loses Rome

Angela Giuffrida, The Guardian (October 4, 2021): M5S mayor of Rome facing election defeat, exit polls suggest: Virginia Raggi shown in third place behind far-right candidate and centre-left one, who could go to a runoff

Hannah Roberts, Politico (October 4, 2021): 5 takeaways from Italy’s local 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.

BBC (October 6, 2021): German elections: ‘Kingmaker’ parties back centre-left coalition talks

Euronews/AP (October 4, 2021): German election: ‘Political speed dating’ as coalition talks intensify

The Economist (October 2, 2021): The Social Democrats are likely to take charge in Germany. But forging a coalition will be slow and difficult after a tight election

Marc Santora and Melissa Eddy, New York Times (September 29, 2021): Do Germany’s Election Results Signal a Left Turn for Europe? It is too early to tell, but the results certainly illustrate a fragmentation in politics and the growing influence of personalities.

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

Andie Sophi Fontaine, Reykjavik Grapevine (October 5, 2021): Election Update: Coalition Talks Continue, Result Uncertain

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

AFP (October 6, 2021): Frustrated Balkans seek reassurance at EU summit

Bledar Qalliu, Exit Albania (October 1, 2021): Albanian Opposition Sets the Stage for Political Battles amid Internal Strife

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

Levon Kameryan, Yahoo Finance (October 6, 2021): The Prolonged Political Crisis in Romania Endangers Fiscal Consolidation and Reform Agenda

Andra Timu and Irina Vilcu, Bloomberg (October 5, 2021): Romanian PM Ousted in Confidence Vote After Less Than Year

Europe After Merkel

Ryan Heath, Politico (October 4, 2021): Who’s Biden gonna call after Merkel? Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and the EU are all fighting to lead Europe. But it’s not that simple.

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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)

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