Europe This Week: December 1, 2021

December 1, 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 Artikum Museum in Rovaniemi, Finland, the unofficial capital of Lapland and gateway to the arctic. Finland plans to hold elections for newly-created county councils in January, at dead of winter. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Timo Lindholm (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

Italy Indirect Presidential Election: Begins January 4, 2022

AFP (December 1, 2021): As Italy eyes a new president, can Berlusconi bewitch?

Nouriel Roubini and Brunello Rosa, Project Syndicate (November 24, 2021): Why Italy’s Presidential Election Matters

Hannah Roberts, Politico (November 22, 2021): Welcome to Draghistan: The Italian prime minister’s leadership is raising democratic concerns among a small but vocal group of intellectuals.

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 30, 2021): Ministry: No plans to postpone 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

Sergio Goncalves, Reuters (November 27, 2021): Portugal’s main opposition party re-elects moderate leader as election looms

Lea Heyne and Luca Manucci, LSE’s EUROPP (November 17, 2021): Who votes for the populist radical right in Portugal and Spain?

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 recently 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.

Reid Standish, RFE/RL (December 1, 2021): China In Eurasia: Beijing’s Shadow Over Hungary’s Elections

Krisztina Than, The Independent (November 30, 2021): Hungary parliament clears way for government’s anti-LGBT referendum as election approaches

AP (November 19, 2021): Hungary Opposition Leader Vows to Restore Western Alliances

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.

As for the traditionally-dominant parties, the center-right Les Républicans are holding a congress to select their candidate. The Socialists have already held their primary, which was won by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo.

Jules Darmanin and Clea Caulcutt, Politico (December 1, 2021): French conservative presidential voting kicks off with no clear favorite

Aurelien Breeden and Constant Méheut, New York Times (November 30, 2021): Éric Zemmour, Far-Right Pundit, Makes French Presidential Run Official

Charles Bremner, Times of London (November 23, 2021): French election 2022: Macron is sitting pretty, but sitting presidents often tumble

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.

Rob Picheta, Henrik Pettersson and Lauren Kent, CNN (November 29, 2021): Sweden’s lawmakers elect the country’s first female Prime Minister — again

Miriam Berger, Washington Post (November 24, 2021): Sweden elected its first female leader. She resigned hours later.

AFP (November 24, 2021): ‘Bulldozer’ Andersson elected Sweden’s first woman PM

Richard Milne, Financial Times (November 22, 2021): Swedish populists seek influence as crime soars up agenda

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

RFE/RL (November 26, 2021): U.S. Envoy For Bosnian Election Reform Seeks ‘Limited, Targeted’ Constitutional Change

Vesna Pisic, Foreign Policy (November 23, 2021): What Russia Really Wants in the Balkans: The Kremlin is destabilizing Bosnia and Herzegovina in pursuit of broader strategic goals.

Hikmet Karcic, Newsweek (November 20, 2021): The U.S. Must Not Allow Bosnia to Become Another Afghanistan

Past Europe Elections

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

Bulgaria 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.

This time around, a new party called We Continue the Change won the most seats and is currently in the process of trying to form a government. It frequently touts the Harvard degrees of its two leaders. More

Slav Okov, Bloomberg (November 26, 2021): ‘Harvard Boys’ Take On EU Graft Spot Bulgaria in Cabinet Try

Svetoslav Todorov, Balkan Insight (November 23, 2021): Bulgarian Poll-Winning Party Livestreams Govt Coalition Talks

Tsvetelia Tsolova, Reuters (November 21, 2021): Bulgarian President Radev wins second term on anti-corruption ticket

Kevin Deegan-Krause, Tim Haughton and Emilia Zankina, Washington Post (November 19, 2021): In Bulgaria’s third election in 2021, another new party won the most seats. But can it form a government?

Denmark Regional and Municipal Elections: November 16, 2021

Denmark held regional and municipal elections on November 16, 2021. The current government, which consists of the Social Democrats, with confidence and supply from several other left-of-center parties, saw some key defeats.

Nathan Akehurst, Jacobin (November 29, 2021): In Copenhagen, the Radical Left Just Beat the Danish Social Democrats for the First Time Ever

Michael Barrett, The Local (November 17, 2021): Five key things to know about Denmark’s local election results

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.

Exit Albania (November 27, 2021): North Macedonia’s Ruling Party Approve Zaev’s Resignation as Party Leader

Borjan Jovanovski, Euronews (November 25, 2021): Euroscepticism rises in North Macedonia amid EU membership delays 

Zeljko Trkanjec, Euractiv (November 23, 2021): North Macedonia’s SDSM to choose new leader and PM-designate

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

Siegfried Mortkowitz, Politico (November 28, 2021): Center-right leader Petr Fiala appointed as Czech PM

David Hutt, Euronews (November 17, 2021): Petr Fiala: Who is the Czech Republic’s likely new prime minister?

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).

The next government will be a “traffic light coalition” consisting of SPD, plus FDP and the Greens, with SPD’s Olaf Scholz becoming chancellor, Baerbock foreign minister, and FDP’s Christian Lindner finance minister.

Pietro Lombardi, Politico (November 28, 2021): New German government should change tack over Nord Stream 2, Poland’s PM says

Holly Ellyatt and Annette Welsbach, CNBC (November 22, 2021): German coalition deal set to be announced imminently

Judy Dempsey, Carnegie Endowment (November 25, 2021): Germany’s New Government Upends the Status Quo

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, will remain in power. More

DW (November 28, 2021): Iceland’s left-right coalition takes office for second term

United Kingdom Local Elections (including Mayor of London and Scottish and Welsh parliaments): May 6, 2021

The United Kingdom (UK) held local elections on May 6, 2021. Voters elected various local councils, plus the mayor of London, plus Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Overall, the Conservatives made gains on councils, but Labour’s Sadiq Khan was re-elected mayor of London. Labour also held onto its working majority in the Welsh parliament.

The Scottish elections were particularly high-stakes because if the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has been demanding another referendum on independence. The SNP won the most seats, but failed to win a majority, making it harder to insist on a new referendum.

Kieran Andrews, Times of London (December 2, 2021): ‘Outlier’ poll shows 55 per cent of Scots now support independence

Mure Dickie, Financial Times (November 29, 2021): Planning for second Scottish independence vote to start next year, says Sturgeon: First minister escalates constitutional stand-off with UK government as she signals referendum by end of 2023

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 25, 2021): Romania Gets Its 10th Premier in a Decade as Crisis Ends

Marton Dunai, Financial Times (November 22, 2021): Romania set for new government as rivals reach deal over prime minister: Liberal Nicolae Ciuca expected to be confirmed as premier but Social Democrats claim key ministries

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

Italy Indirect Presidential Election: January 4, 2022

Cyprus, Northern Cyprus Snap Elections: January 22, 2022

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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