Europe This Week: October 13, 2021

October 13, 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 National Library of Kosovo. Kosovo holds local elections on October 17. Photo credit: Wikimedia/qiv (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

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

Helen Wright, ERR News (October 11, 2021): Local elections 2021: Don’t expect the unexpected

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.

IFIMES, Eurasia Review (October 9, 2021): Local Elections In Kosovo: A Sort Of Defeat Of International Community – OpEd

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.

Perparim Isufi, Balkan Insight (October 12, 2021): North Macedonia Mayoral Candidates Clash over COVID Crisis

Euronews (October 6, 2021): Where do Western Balkan nations stand with their EU membership bids? 

Marton Dunai, Financial Times (October 6, 2021): EU agrees €30bn western Balkans package but no date to join bloc

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

Reuters (October 12, 2021): Bulgaria’s GERB party leads ahead of November election, poll finds

Antonia Kosteva, Emilya Milcheva and Krassen Nikolov, Euractiv (October 12, 2021): Russia offers ‘poor’ Bulgaria new long-term contract with Gazprom

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

Austria Presidential Election: April 2022 (due)

Austria is due to hold a presidential election in April 2022, although in Austria’s parliamentary system, the role is largely ceremonial.

Katrin Bennhold, New York Times (October 10, 2021): Austrian Political Scandal Leaves Europe’s Conservatives in Need of New Path

BBC (October 9, 2021): Sebastian Kurz: Austrian leader resigns amid corruption inquiry

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. 

Alex Kliment, GZERO (October 12, 2021: The provocateur who is scrambling France’s election

Clea Caulcutt and Cornelius Hirsch, Politico (October 11, 2021): France is fascinated by Eric ‘the French Trump’ Zemmour

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.

Nick Thorpe, BBC (October 10, 2021): Thriller film sinks teeth into Hungary’s opposition

Justin Spike, AP (October 8, 2021): Hungary: Budapest mayor pulls out of opposition primary race

Zoltan Simon, Bloomberg (October 8, 2021): Budapest Mayor Quits Primary, Upends Race to Challenge Orban

Reuters (October 8, 2021): Hungary PM Orban flags further wage hikes ahead of 2022 election

Past Europe Elections

Czech Republic Parliamentary Elections: October 8-9, 2021

The Czech Republic held parliamentary elections 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. Ultimately, an opposition coalition of the center-right and the center-left Pirates narrowly defeated Babis and are expected to form the next government. More

David Hutt, Euronews (October 11, 2021): Why the Czechs have finally turned their back on communism

AP (October 9, 2021): Populist Czech PM Babis’s party narrowly loses election in surprise result

Alex Kliment, GZERO (October 7, 2021): Pirates ahoy in the Czech election?

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.

Frederick Kliem, The Diplomat (October 13, 2021): The German Elections and Angela Merkel’s China Legacy

Ben Wright, DW (October 11, 2021): German election chaos in Berlin — what happens now?

AFP (October 11, 2021): German far-right party co-chief quits after election disappointment

Jessica Bateman, Foreign Policy (October 8, 2021): Why Germany’s Far-Right Remains on the Fringes

Bill Wirtz, The Spectator (October 7, 2021): Greta Thunberg didn’t win the German elections: The Greens did well, yes, but so did a party of forward-thinking classical liberals

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

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

Italy held regional elections in Calabria in the south, as well as local elections in several major cities, on October 3 and 4. 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.

Michele Paolo, Italics Magazine (October 13, 2021): What’s to come after Italy’s local elections?

Nicholas Farrell, The Spectator (October 8, 2021): Reports of the demise of Italian populism are greatly exaggerated

Amy Kellogg, Fox News (October 6, 2021): Rome’s mayor voted out of office amid controversies over city decay, trash, wild boars

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. The center-left Labour plans to form a minority government. More

AP (October 13, 2021): Norway’s PM-designate: Center-left govt to focus on climate

BBC (October 13, 2021): Norway’s oil and gas sector will not be dismantled, new government says

Cyprus, Northern Cyprus Presidential Election: October 11 and 18, 2020

Northern Cyprus held a presidential election in October 2020. The election, like Northern Cyprus itself, was recognized only by Turkey. Ankara-backed nationalist Ersin Tatar won, exacerbating tensions on the island. This is all happening in the context of the ongoing Eastern Mediterranean crisis. More

Hurriyet Daily News (October 13, 2021): Gov’t in Turkish Cyprus resigns after political deadlock

TRT World (October 13, 2021): Turkish Cypriot PM tenders resignation, calls for early 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

Bogdan Neagu, Euractiv (October 11, 2021): No end in sight for Romania’s government crisis

Orlando Crowcroft, Euronews (October 6, 2021): Romania faces political deadlock after prime minister ousted in no confidence vote 

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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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