Europe This Week: January 19, 2022

January 19, 2022

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 Zindan Gate of Belgrade Fortress. Serbia voters approved a January 16 referendum on constitutional changes related to the judiciary ahead of April 3 early elections. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Magyshadow (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

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 (January 12, 2022): Advance voting underway in Finland’s first county council elections

Italy Indirect Presidential Election: Begins January 24, 2022

Italy’s parliament will begin the process of choosing a president on January 24. Although Italy’s president does not have much formal executive power, current president Sergio Mattarella, who is not seeking another term, has become increasingly powerful as a mediator in Italy’s recent series of political crises.

Current prime minister Mario Draghi has indicated interest in the role, which could trigger snap elections if the current broad coalition of right and left-wing parties does not hold together. Italy is currently not due for parliamentary elections until 2023. Some fear another bout of instability if Draghi leaves his current role – Draghi’s accession to the role of prime minister ended the last round of political chaos.

In addition, none other than former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi – currently age 85 – is also angling for the role in a campaign dubbed “Operation Squirrel.” Numerous other political figures could be put forward for nomination.

Paola Subacchi, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (January 19, 2022): Presidential election could put Italy’s Draghi-led recovery at risk

Francesco Pesole, Paolo Pizzoli, and Antonie Bouvet, ING (January 18, 2022): A market’s guide to Italy’s upcoming presidential election

Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli, Financial Times (January 18, 2022): Silvio Berlusconi makes long-shot bid for presidency of Italy: Comeback for former premier, 85, seen as unlikely but attempt could put political unity at risk

Portugal Snap Parliamentary Elections: January 30, 2022

Portugal will hold snap elections on January 30, two years early, 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 (January 20, 2022): Heartlands key as António Costa seeks majority in Portugal’s early election: Socialists lead in polls, but struggle to find allies in fractured political landscape.

BBC (January 14, 2022): Lisbon council fined for sharing protester details with foreign embassies

Germany Saarland State Elections: March 27, 2022, followed by Schleswig-Holstein State Elections: May 8, 2022, North Rhine-Westphalia State Elections: May 15, 2022, and Lower Saxony State Elections: October 8, 2022

Germany holds several sets of state elections in 2022, following the “Superwahljahr” (Super Election Year) of 2021, which saw the defeat of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and a new “traffic light coalition” government consisting of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the Greens.

Ken Moriyasu, Nikkei Asia (January 19, 2022): German leader juggles China policy, balancing profits and principles

Nikolas K. Gvosdev and Nils Schmidt, Foreign Policy Research Institute (January 18, 2022): Germany’s Future after the “Merkel Era”?

Hungary Parliamentary Elections: April 3, 2022

Hungary is holding parliamentary elections on April 3, 2022. 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.

Lili Bayer, Politico (January 19, 2022): MEPs call for full-scale election observation in Hungary: The unusual move reflects deepening concerns over democratic backsliding in Hungary and the legitimacy of its institutions.

Ábrahám Voss, Hungary Today (January 17, 2022): Opposition PM Candidate Márki-Zay Challenges Orbán to Public Debate

Daniel Nolan, openDemocracy (January 14, 2022): Meet the conservative who could unseat Viktor Orbán

Amanda Rivkin, DW (January 13, 2022): Hungary: Civil society groups request election observers: Twenty Hungarian civil society organizations called for international observers during elections in April. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has already challenged the legitimacy of elections in the country he controls.

Craig Turp-Balazs, Emerging Europe (January 12, 2022): Hungary sets April date for parliamentary election, with PM Viktor Orbán facing his toughest challenge yet

RFE/RL (January 12, 2022): Hungary Caps Prices On Basic Foods As Inflation Pinches Families Ahead Of Elections

Serbia Constitutional Referendum: January 16, 2022, followed by Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: April 3, 2022

Serbia holds early presidential and legislative elections on April 3, following a constitutional referendum on January 16 in which voters approved constitutional changes related to the judiciary – a move some hope will bring Serbia closer to EU membership. The last elections, snap parliamentary elections in June 2020, took place 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.

Milica Stojanovic, Balkan Insight (January 16, 2022): Serbia Votes ‘Yes’ to Judiciary Constitution Changes

Reuters (January 14, 2022): U.S. and its allies welcome Serbia’s Jan. 16 referendum on constitutional changes

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.

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 Republicans have selected Valérie Pécresse, president of the regional council of Île-de-France. The Socialists chose Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo as their candidate. Pécresse has polled in second and could very realistically beat both of the far-right candidates and make it to the runoff.

Maïa de la Baume and Rym Momtaz, Politico (January 19, 2022): Macron’s EU speech descends into French campaign brawl: The sparring illustrates how much France’s presidential election is looming over the country’s rotating EU presidency.

John Keiger, The Spectator (January 18, 2022): Could Marine Le Pen be shut out of France’s election?

Joseph Choi, The Hill (January 17, 2022): Far-right French presidential candidate fined for remarks about young migrants

Hannah Thompson, Connexion France (January 17, 2022): France’s far-left holds election rally with ‘smell and visual effects’

Louise Nordstrom, France24 (January 16, 2022): Valérie Pécresse: ‘The Bulldozer’ conservative who vows to restore French pride

France24 (January 15, 2022): Former justice minister Christiane Taubira joins France’s presidential race

Euronews with AFP (January 13, 2022): France election: Le Pen and Zemmour make French far-right ‘most suicidal’ in the world 

United Kingdom Local Elections, including Northern Ireland Assembly: May 5, 2022

The United Kingdom holds local elections for some local councils, as well as the Northern Ireland Assembly (although the Northern Ireland elections could take place earlier). The Northern Ireland elections could be a watershed. Polling suggests that unionist parties could lose their majority and the nationalist Sinn Féin could become the biggest party. By far the biggest issue in public debate is Northern Ireland’s trade arrangements following Brexit.

In last year’s local elections, the Conservatives made gains on councils, particularly in England, but Labour’s Sadiq Khan was re-elected mayor of London. Labour also held onto its working majority in the Welsh parliament. In the high-stakes Scottish Parliament elections, the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) won the most seats after campaigning on another independence referendum, but failed to win a majority, making it harder to insist on a new referendum. All of Scotland’s local councils are up for election in 2022. The SNP is currently the biggest party in local government, and it is worth watching whether they make gains this year.

Jon Stone, The Independent (January 19, 2022): UK government U-turns on ‘double jobbing’ for Northern Ireland politicians

Joe Barnes and James Crisp, The Telegraph (January 13, 2022): Liz Truss targets Northern Ireland Protocol deal by end of March: Two sides expected to agree timetable for intensive talks in attempt to broker compromise before Stormont elections

Austria Presidential Election: Fall 2022 (due)

Austria is due to hold a presidential election in Fall 2022, although in Austria’s parliamentary system, the role is largely ceremonial. Recently, the double resignation of center-right chancellor Sebastian Kurz and subsequently his successor, Alexander Schallenberg, has shaken politics. General elections to select the next government are not due until 2024, but snap elections remain possible. In addition, a number of states hold state and local elections in 2023.

Hayley Maguire, The Local (January 18, 2022): How does Austria’s presidential election work?

Bosnia and Herzegovina General Elections: October 2, 2022

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) holds general elections on October 2, 2022. The 2020 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. 

BiH consists of two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, populated mostly by Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats, and the Republika Srpska, with mostly Orthodox Serbs. Recently, tensions have flared as Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has used increasingly inflammatory rhetoric and taken actions that some analysts see as moving toward secession.

Irvin Pekmez, Balkan Insight (January 19, 2022): Bosnia’s Dodik Courts French Far-Right before Le Pen Presidency Bid

Carl Bildt, Project Syndicate (January 18, 2022): Bosnia’s Next Crisis

Reuters (January 18, 2022): Turkey’s Erdogan, Serbia’s Vucic agree to broker Bosnia crisis talks

Montenegro Parliamentary Elections: By August 2024

Montenegro is due to hold parliamentary elections by August 2024, but snap polls are possible. The last elections, the fifth since independence in 2006, took place in August 2020. Although the pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists, which has been in power for 30 years, won the most seats, they did not win a majority, and a coalition of opposition parties united to form a government. Zdravko Krivokapic from For the Future of Montenegro became the next prime minister. The political base of the Krivokapic’s coalition is generally pro-Moscow.

The government currently faces a no-confidence motion, which could lead to early elections in May if it succeeds.

Samir Kajosevic, Balkan Insight (January 19, 2022): Montenegro’s ‘Blocked’ Government Faces No-Confidence Motion

European Western Balkans (January 19, 2022): Reactions from the EU to the new government proposal in Montenegro: Reforms should be unblocked

Past Europe Elections

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

Bulgaria held a presidential election on November 14 along with parliamentary elections – the third this year after no one could form a government following the first two. It appears that the third time was a charm, as a new political party called We Continue the Change (whose founders tout their Harvard credentials) formed a broad coalition.

The elections brought major change, ousting former PM Boyko Borissov’s center-right GERB, which had governed for most of the last 12 years. The country also saw the rise of a party called There Is Such a People (ITN), led by TV star Stanislav Trifonov, which came in second in the April elections and first in the July elections. Despite being edged out by We Continue the Change in November, ITN will be part of the new coalition. The other parties in the government will be the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the centrist/center-right Democratic Bulgaria coalition.

Bulgaria is a member of NATO and the European Union (EU); however, it remains the poorest and most corrupt member of the EU. Meanwhile, Russia seeks to influence Bulgaria. Moreover, Bulgaria is currently embroiled in a diplomatic dispute with neighboring North Macedonia involving issues of language and history. Last year, it blocked North Macedonia’s EU accession. This comes on the heels of North Macedonia literally changing its name in order to get Greece to stop blocking its NATO and EU membership. More

AP (January 19, 2022): Bulgarian president takes oath of office for second term

Reuters (January 17, 2022): Bulgaria’s anti-corruption chief resigns as government seeks reforms

North Macedonia Local Elections: October 17, 2021

North Macedonia held local elections on October 17, 2021 which delivered a landslide victory for the conservative/nationalist opposition VMRO-DPMNE and resulted in the resignation of PM Zoran Zaev of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM). These follow parliamentary elections in July 2020 in which SDSM won a second term. North Macedonia’s next general elections are not due until 2024, but the opposition is calling for snap polls in light of the results of the local elections.

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 remain fragmented and fractious.

Konstantin Testorides, AP (January 18, 2022): Bulgarian PM visits North Macedonia to boost battered ties: The new prime ministers of North Macedonia and Bulgaria have agreed to redouble efforts to improve relations between the two Balkan neighbors, which soured after Bulgaria blocked North Macedonia’s bid to join the European Union

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight (January 17, 2022): North Macedonia’s Newly Elected PM Faces Raft of Challenges

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 (January 19, 2022): Former Czech PM Babis to be stripped of immunity

Matt K., Global Risk Insights (January 17, 2022): Sino-Czech Relations: Change on the Horizon

Peter Laca and Lenka Ponikelska, Bloomberg (January 13, 2022): Czechs Ratify New Government That Vows to Repair Ties With EU

Europe’s Relationship with China

Catherine Jones, London School of Economics (January 13, 2022): Understanding China-EU relations in the context of the Belt and Road initiative

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Cyprus, Northern Cyprus Snap Elections: January 22, 2022

Finland County Elections: January 23, 2022

Italy Indirect Presidential Election: January 24, 2022

Portugal Snap Parliamentary Elections: January 30, 2022

Netherlands Local Elections: March 16, 2022

Germany, Saarland State Elections: March 27, 2022

Hungary Parliamentary Elections: April 3, 2022

Serbia Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, plus Belgrade City Assembly Elections: April 3, 2022

France Presidential Election: April 10 and 24, 2022

Slovenia Parliamentary Elections: April 24, 2022

United Kingdom Local Elections, including Northern Ireland Assembly: May 5, 2022

Germany, Schleswig-Holstein State Elections: May 8, 2022

Iceland Local Elections

Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia State Elections: May 15, 2022

France Legislative Elections: June 12 and 19, 2022

Malta Parliamentary Elections: June 2022 (due – snap elections possible)

Austria Presidential Election: Fall 2022 (due)

Sweden Parliamentary and Local Elections: September 11, 2022

Latvia Parliamentary Elections: October 1, 2022

Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 2, 2022

Germany, Lower Saxony State Elections: October 9, 2022

Czech Republic Local and Partial Senate Election: October 2022

Spain, Andalusia Regional Elections: Between June and October 2022 (due)

Slovenia Presidential and Local Elections: October/November 2022 (due)

Slovakia Local Elections: November 2022 (due)

Czech Republic Presidential Election: By January 2023

Austria, Lower Austria State Elections: January 2023 (due)

Cyprus Presidential Election: February 2023 (due)

Monaco Parliamentary Elections: February 2023 (due)

Austria, Tyrol State Elections: February 2023 (due)

Estonia General Elections: By March 5, 2023

Netherlands Provincial Council and Water Authority Elections: March 2023 (due)

Austria, Carinthia State Elections: March 2023 (due)

Finland Parliamentary Elections: By April 2023

Montenegro Presidential Election: April 2023 (due)

Austria, Salzburg State Elections: April 2023 (due)

Spain Local Elections and Various Regional Elections: May 28, 2023

Germany, Bremen State Elections: May 2023 (due)

Greece Local Elections: May 2023 (due)

Latvia Indirect Presidential Election: May 2023 (due)

Italy General Elections: By June 1, 2023

Denmark General Elections: By June 4, 2023

Greece Parliamentary Elections: By August 6, 2023

Norway Local Elections: September 2023

Switzerland Federal Parliamentary Elections: October 2023 (due)

Luxembourg General Elections: October 2023

Bulgaria Local Elections: October 2023

Germany, Hesse and Bavaria State Elections: October 2023 (due)

Finland, Åland Elections: By October 2023

Poland Parliamentary and Local Elections: By November 11, 2023

Spain General Elections: By December 10, 2023 (snap elections possible)

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