Europe This Week: November 3, 2021

November 3, 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 Vardar River in Skopje, North Macedonia. The opposition won North Macedonia’s recent local elections in a landslide, which could potentially trigger snap elections. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Rašo (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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

Lauren Chadwick, Euronews (November 3, 2021): Bulgarian presidential candidate charged after attacking LGBT+ centre

Svetoslav Todorov, Balkan Insight (October 29, 2021): Political Exhaustion Weighs on Voters in Third Bulgaria Poll

Krassen Nikolov, Euractiv (October 27, 2021): The biggest irritant in the Bulgarian election: The COVID certificate

Kosovo Local Election Runoffs: November 14, 2021 (following October 17 first round)

Kosovo held local elections on October 17, 2021, and runoffs will take place on November 14. 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.

Exit Albania (October 28, 2021): Opposition LDK Won Highest Number of Votes during First Round of Kosovo Local 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.

Hurriyet Daily News (November 2, 2021): Former minister elected as new leader of Turkish Cypriot ruling party

Ali Ege Gursoy, McGill International Review (October 30, 2021): An Island Nation in Diplomatic Limbo: Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

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 News (November 3, 2021): A Really Simple Guide to Finland’s County Council Elections

Portugal Snap Elections: January 30, 2022

Portugal will hold snap elections on January 30, following the government’s defeat in a crucial budget vote.

The two main parties, center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) and leftist Socialist Party (PS), regularly alternate in power. In the 2015 parliamentary elections, PSD won a plurality of seats and briefly formed a minority government, which collapsed after less than two months. PS leader Antonio Costa formed a left-wing coalition and became prime minister. In the 2019 elections, the Socialists won again, but did not get a majority. Subsequently, Costa formed a minority government

Paul Ames, Politico (November 4, 2021): Portugal heads for snap election in January

DW (October 27, 2021): Portugal: Elections likely as lawmakers reject 2022 budget

Paul Ames, Politico (October 27, 2021): End of the affair: Portugal’s far left dumps António Costa

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, Orbán’s increasingly close ties to Russia and China have become a concern for many Hungarian voters.

A number of opposition parties held a primary to field a single candidate for prime minister. Ultimately, conservative Péter Márki-Zay, mayor of the southern city of Hódmezővásárhely, won the second round, defeating leftist Klára Dobrev, after liberal Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony – who had been seen as a favorite – dropped out and endorsed Márki-Zay.

Stuart Greer, RFE/RL (November 1, 2021 – video): Hungary’s ‘Unexpected Candidate’ Could Be A Political Threat To The Populist Orban

EU Observer (October 29, 2021): Hungary: anti-Orbán coalition leads in polls

David Brennan, Newsweek (October 22, 2021): Hungary’s Loyalties Lie With U.S., NATO Not China and Russia, Viktor Orban Challenger Says

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.

Meanwhile, while many had predicted a rematch between Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen, whom Macron defeated in 2017, it is becoming increasingly unclear who will make it to the second round (if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote on April 10, the top two face off in a runoff on April 24). The rise of far-right media personality Éric Zemmour, who is often compared to Donald Trump, could take support away from Le Pen. Meanwhile, the center-right Les Républicans will hold a congress to select their candidate. The Socialists have already held their primary, which was won by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.

AFP/The Local (November 3, 2021): La chasse: Why hunting is becoming an election issue in France

Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic (October 27, 2021): The Trump Playbook Hits France: By over-indexing on coverage of the far-right pundit Éric Zemmour, the media risk amplifying him.

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

Majda Ruge, Foreign Policy (November 3, 2021): Time to Act on Bosnia’s Existential Threat: The EU and the United States need to stop making concessions to Serbian secessionist forces backed by Russia.

Reuters (November 3, 2021): Explainer: What is causing the political crisis in Bosnia?

Hamza Karcic, Haaretz (October 31, 2021): Prepping for Secession – or War: Who Will Stop Bosnia’s Serb Separatists?

Walter Mayr, Alexander Sarovic, and Lina Verschwele, Spiegel (October 27, 2021): Bosnian Serbs Are Playing with Fire

Past Europe Elections

North Macedonia Local Elections: October 17, 2021

North Macedonia held local elections on October 17, 2021 which delivered a landslide victory for the opposition VMRO-DPMNE. These follow par liamentary 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 controlled 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 and Jeta Xharra, Balkan Insight (November 2, 2021): North Macedonia Must Avoid Snap Elections: Albanian Party Leader

Marton Dunai and Eleni Varvitsioti, Financial Times (November 1, 2021): North Macedonia PM resigns after landslide defeat in local elections: Voters punish Zoran Zaev for deadlocked EU-accession talks and slow economic progress

Alice Taylor, Exit Albania (November 1, 2021): Macedonian Prime Minister Steps Down Following Local Election Defeat

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

Euronews (November 3, 2021): Czech Republic edges closer to new coalition government

Radio Prague International (November 3, 2021): Electoral coalitions strike deal on forming new government

Luboš Palata, DW (October 27, 2021): Will sick Czech President Milos Zeman be removed from office?

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.

AP (November 2, 2021): Germany: Merkel’s party to choose new leader by late January

Emily Schultheis, Laurenz Gehrke, and Nette Nöstlinger, Politico (November 1, 2021): Germany coalition talks: What are the biggest sticking points?

Sarah Marsh, Reuters (October 28, 2021): Merkel looks on as Germany’s newly elected parliament convenes

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 Sophia Fontaine, Reykjavik Grapevine (November 1, 2021): Gov’t Negotiations Still Ongoing, Awaiting Vote Count Committee Decision

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

Exit Albania (October 30, 2021): Committee of Inquiry on Albanian Elections Begins Work following Weeks of Disagreements

Lea Ypi, London School of Economics (October 29, 2021): Albania: Coming of age at the end of history

Fjori Sinoruka, Balkan Insight (October 27, 2021): Berisha Rallies Support to Regain Albanian Opposition Leadership

Bledar Qalliu, Exit Albania (October 27, 2021): Opposition Requests Parliament to Establish Committee on Electoral Reform

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

Reuters (October 29, 2021): ‘A lot of work to do’: Dutch government formation talks drag on for record 226 days: Prime minister Mark Rutte, who needs support of three junior parties for majority, has indicated that there is no compromise in sight

Mike Corder, AP (October 29, 2021): Talk talk: Dutch coalition negotiations set new record

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

Andra Timu and Irina Vilcu, Bloomberg (November 2, 2021): Romanian Liberals Try to Restart Clock on Forming New Coalition

RFE/RL (November 2, 2021): Romania’s PM-Designate Gives Up Nomination, Extending Political Crisis

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Bulgaria Presidential Election: November 14, 2021

Kosovo Local Election Runoffs: November 14, 2021 (following October 17 first round)

Denmark Regional and Municipal Elections: November 16, 2021

Finland County Elections: January 23, 2022

Portugal Snap Parliamentary Elections: January 30, 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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