Europe This Week: October 20, 2021

October 20, 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.

Town hall and war memorial in Hódmezővásárhely, Hungary, a small city in the southeast of Hungary. Hódmezővásárhely’s mayor, Peter Marki-Zay, won the opposition primary and will challenge Viktor Orbán in next spring’s elections. Photo credit:
Wikimedia/Joergsam (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Europe 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

Euractiv (October 20, 2021): Bulgarian elections marked by radicalisation of ethnic Turkish party

Corinne Deloy, Fondation Robert Schuman (October 19, 2021): Bulgarians to vote in dual legislative and presidential elections

Cyprus, Northern Cyprus Snap Elections: TBD

Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, could hold snap elections soon following the resignation of the government. In last year’s presidential election, Ankara-backed nationalist Ersin Tatar won, exacerbating tensions on the island. More

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

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. Recently, the resignation of center-right chancellor Sebastian Kurz has shaken politics.

Katrin Bennhold, New York Times (October 17, 2021): Fake Polls and Tabloid Coverage on Demand: The Dark Side of Sebastian Kurz

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.

Justin Spike, AP (October 17, 2021): Small-town mayor to lead Hungary opposition bloc in election

Lili Bayer, Politico (October 17, 2021): Conservative wins Hungarian opposition race to face Orbán in 2022: A diverse group of six parties has come together in an effort to defeat the PM.

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. 

Alice Tidey with AFP, Euronews (October 20, 2021): French presidential election: Who’s who in the race to replace Macron?

Elizabeth Pineau, Reuters (October 20, 2021): Barnier talks tough on immigration in quest for France’s centre-right presidential ticket

AFP (October 14, 2021): Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wins French Socialists’ presidential nomination

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

Reuters (October 14, 2021): Secessionist leader says Serbs will undo Bosnia state institutions

Past Europe Elections

Kosovo Local Elections: October 17, 2021

Kosovo held 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 the parliamentary elections, potentially jeopardizing any resolution to a long-standing territorial dispute with Serbia. However, the center-right opposition led the early vote count for the local elections.

Exit Albania (October 20, 2021): Serbia Urges Kosovo Serbs to Boycott Institutions

Philip Andrew Churm and Euronews with AP (October 18, 2021): Kosovo’s municipal election: Centre-right opposition lead after early results 

RFE/RL (October 17, 2021): Kosovo Voting In Municipal Elections Amid Pandemic, Ethnic Tensions

North Macedonia Local Elections: October 17, 2021

North Macedonia held 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.

Balkan Insight (October 19, 2021): Albania, North Macedonia Ready for EU Accession Talks: European Commission

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight (October 18, 2021): North Macedonia Opposition Celebrates Comeback in Local Polls

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 – held local elections on October 17, 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

Baltic News Network (October 18, 2021): In Estonian local elections, Centre Party wins, losing majority

Samuel Kramer, New Eastern Europe (October 15, 2021): What to watch in Estonia’s upcoming local elections

Italy, Local Election Runoffs in Rome, Milan, Turin, Naples and other cities and regional elections in Calabria: October 17, 2021 (following the October 3-4, 2021 first round)

Italy held regional elections in Calabria in the south, as well as local elections in several major cities, on October 3 and 4, with runoffs on October 17. 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.

Miles Johnson, Financial Times (October 19, 2021): Centre-left takes control of key Italian cities in blow to Five Star: Democratic Party candidate seizes Rome from the former upstart party which also lost Turin

Gavin Jones and Angelo Amante, Reuters (October 18, 2021): Centre-left wins Italian mayoral run-offs as right flounders

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

Rob Cameron, BBC News (October 19, 2021): Czech turmoil over removing ailing President Zeman’s powers

Siegfried Mortkowitz, Politico (October 18, 2021): Czech president too ill to work, powers to be handed to PM Babiš: Babiš is expected to ask the head of the Together coalition to form a government.

Tomas Etzler and John Mastrini, CNN (October 18, 2021): Czech lawmakers may strip hospitalized president of powers to end deadlock

AP (October 15, 2021): Czech PM Babis heading for opposition after losing election

Mitchell A. Orenstein, The Bulwark (October 15, 2021): Is Central Europe’s Populist Wave Crashing? Voters and leaders in Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Austria may have found populism’s weaknesses.

Peter Tuma, Atlantic Council (October 14, 2021): Is liberalism ending its losing streak in Central Europe?

Marek Rybar and Kevin Deegan-Krause, Washington Post (October 13, 2021): The Czech public voted out their prime minister. Actually getting rid of him may be harder.

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).

Currently, the Greens, FDP, and SPD are in talks to form a “traffic light” coalition government.

DW (October 16, 2021): Germany: CDU chief Laschet shoulders blame for election debacle

Euronews/AFP (October 15, 2021): German election: Traffic light coalition moves closer to forming a government

DW (October 15, 2021): Germany: SPD, Greens and FDP ready to start formal coalition talks

Andrew Hammond, South China Morning Post (October 15, 2021): Why Germany’s coalition talks matter for China, Europe and the world

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

Reuters (October 14, 2021): Norway’s Labour-led cabinet takes office in day overshadowed by attack

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 (October 20, 2021): Romania’s PM-designate fails to win parliament confidence

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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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