Europe This Week: December 15, 2021

December 15, 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 Vrijthof square in Maastricht, Netherlands. Nine months after elections, the Netherlands now officially has a government, made up of the same parties as the old government. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Euku (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

Italy Indirect Presidential Election: Begins January 4, 2022

Hannah Roberts, Politico (December 14, 2021): Italy’s succession dilemma: It only wants Mario Draghi: Draghi is the only consensus option for both prime minister and president — two mutually exclusive jobs.

Angelo Amante, Reuters (December 9, 2021): Mission impossible? Berlusconi launches bid for Italian presidency

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

Reuters (December 5, 2021): Portuguese parliament dissolved ahead of Jan 30 election

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.

AFP (December 3, 2021): Austria names new chancellor after Kurz’s shock resignation

Steven Erlanger, New York Times (December 2, 2021): Double Resignation Shakes Austrian Politics in Aftermath of Scandal: Sebastian Kurz, a former chancellor under investigation for influence-buying and corruption, said he was quitting politics. Within hours, his successor and ally also resigned, after only two months on the job.

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.

Reuters (December 13, 2021): Hungary PM Orban unexpectedly delays deal to buy Budapest Airport

Lili Bayer, Politico (December 9, 2021): Biden sees if a snub will get Orbán’s attention: Not all of the Hungarian leader’s critics are convinced leaving Hungary out of a democracy summit is an effective punishment.

Serbia Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: By April 2022

Serbia held snap parliamentary elections on June 21, 2020 in a climate of mistrust. Many opposition parties boycotted, and therefore, President Alexander Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) dominated. Vucic announced that the new parliament would not serve a full term, and that the Serbia would hold both presidential and parliamentary elections by April 2022.

Serbia has tried to balance movement toward joining the European Union with maintaining good relations with Russia. Meanwhile, China has stepped up its presence.

Dimitar Bechev, Carnegie Europe (December 14, 2021): Serbia: A Testament to People Power

Ivana Saric, Axios (December 13, 2021): Environmental protests rock Serbia

Nevena Bogdanovic and Andy Heil, RFE/RL (December 1, 2021): ‘Like Someone Cutting Off Your Arms And Legs’: Rio Tinto’s Lithium Mine Sparks Anger In Serbia

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.

Marc Perelman, France24 (December 15, 2021 – video): Macron steps into campaign mode as conservative rival Pécresse climbs in polls

Andrew Glencross, Washington Post (December 13, 2021): People wrote off France’s center right. But Valérie Pécresse’s presidential run may be another story.

Rym Momtaz, Politico (December 9, 2021): French election permeates Macron’s EU presidency priorities: French leader’s EU wish list echoed 2022 campaign themes.

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.

Maria Oskarson, IPS Journal (December 13, 2021): Sweden’s Social Democrats turn left

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

DW (December 11, 2021): Bosnia: Serbs vote to leave key institutions in secession move

Janine Di Giovanni, Vanity Fair (December 9, 2021): Bosnia Redux: Are the Balkans Headed for Another War?

Gorana Grgić, War on the Rocks (December 3, 2021): Why the West Won’t Do More in the Balkans

Greece Parliamentary Elections: By August 2023

Greece is due to hold parliamentary elections by August 2023. The last elections – snap polls that took place in July 2019 – saw the defeat of left-wing PM Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party (which had been governing in a strange coalition with the far-right Independent Greeks party), following heavy Syriza losses during local and European Parliament elections earlier that year. The center-right New Democracy, headed by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, won the parliamentary polls and formed a government on its own, without the need for coalition partners.

Until 2015, Greece’s two main parties had been New Democracy and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Currently, PASOK is the third-biggest party in parliament, behind New Democracy and Syriza.

Demetris Nellas, AP (December 12, 2021): EU lawmaker Androulakis elected Greek socialist leader

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 

Tsvetelia Tsolova, Reuters (December 13, 2021): Harvard-educated Petkov elected as Bulgaria’s prime minister

Diana Simeonava, AFP (December 11, 2021): Bulgaria’s PM-designate announces graft-fighting govt

Walter Mayr, Spiegel (December 6, 2021): “We Will Be Merciless in Applying the Law”: With his promise to ruthlessly fight corruption, Harvard graduate Kiril Petkov recently enjoyed an upset victory in the election in Bulgaria. In an interview, he explains how he hopes to succeed in reinventing his country, which has long had a reputation for corruption.

RFE/RL (December 3, 2021): Bulgaria’s New Fragmented Parliament Convenes Ahead Of Coalition Talks

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.

Zeljko Trkanjec, Euractiv (December 14, 2021): Draft conclusions foresee start of accession talks for North Macedonia

Nektaria Stamouli, Politico (December 13, 2021): Dimitar Kovachevski on course to become North Macedonia’s new prime minister

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight (December 6, 2021): North Macedonia Govt Solidifies Majority, Adding New Coalition Partner

Krassen Nikolov, Euractiv (December 3, 2021): Bulgaria Returns to ‘History’ in Veto Talks with North Macedonia

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

Aneta Zachová, Euractiv (December 14, 2021): New Czech PM flexes muscles in first clash with president

AP (December 13, 2021): Czech president to swear in new government on Friday

Robert Tait, The Guardian (December 10, 2021): Czech president rejects nominee for foreign minister over ‘low qualifications’ (December 13, 2021): New Czech govt. will not seek extension of the state of emergency

Natalie Liu, Voice of America (December 10, 2021): Communism: Down and Out in the Czech Republic

Milana Nikolova, Emerging Europe (December 2, 2021): The decline and fall of Central and Eastern Europe’s communist successor parties

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.

Geir Moulson, AP (December 8, 2021): Scholz replaces Merkel as German chancellor, opening new era

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

Thomas Erdbrink, New York Times (December 15, 2021): After Months, a ‘New’ Dutch Coalition With the Same Leader and Parties

DW (December 13, 2021): Netherlands: Dutch parties to form government 9 months after vote

Lithuania Parliamentary Elections: October 11, 2020 and October 25, 2020

Lithuania held parliamentary elections in October 2020. A center-right coalition led by Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS–LKD) defeated the incumbent populist Farmers and Greens. Following the elections, a coalition of four parties – all led by women – formed a government, with Ingrida Šimonytė as the country’s first female prime minister.\

Under the present government, Lithuania has become increasingly vocal on matters related to China’s human rights record, leading other European countries to re-assess their relations with Beijing.

Stuart Lau, Politico (December 6, 2021): Lithuania asks EU for ‘strong reaction’ to Chinese pressure: The Baltic nation was hit by Chinese economic sanctions after accepting Taiwan’s offer to open a new diplomatic office in Vilnius.

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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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