Europe This Week: February 2, 2022

January 26, 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 Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Italy’s indirect presidential election continues. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Markus Bernet (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Ongoing Europe Elections

Italy Indirect Presidential Election: Began January 24, 2022

Italy’s parliament began 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, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had been campaigning from the role, but withdrew before voting started. Numerous other political figures could be put forward for nomination.

After three rounds of voting, no president has been chosen yet.

AFP (January 27, 2022): Italy again fails to elect president in fourth vote as parties buy time

CNN (January 26, 2022 – video): Explained: How Italy will elect a new head of state

Russell Padmore, BBC (January 26, 2022): Why Italy’s new president could make or break economy

Amy Kazmin, Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli, and Davide Ghiglione, Financial Times (January 24, 2022): Italy lawmakers cast blank ballots in presidential election impasse: Fragile coalition could be upset if Draghi moves from premier to head of state without deal on new government

Upcoming Europe Elections

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.

Nuno Prudencio, Euronews (January 27, 2022): Portugal election: how the left’s odd political coalition was born

Reuters (January 27, 2022): Factbox: Parties and leaders contesting Portugal’s snap election

Lea Heyne, World Politics Review (January 26, 2022): Portugal Is Losing Its Immunity to the Lure of the Far Right

AFP (January 23, 2022): Socialists ahead as Portugal election campaign enters final stretch

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.

Marco Bitschnau, London School of Economics (January 24, 2022): Friedrich Merz: What to expect from the CDU’s new leader

Guy Chazan, Financial Times (January 22, 2022): Friedrich Merz wins CDU leadership election: Conservative promises victory in regional elections this year and says he will draft programme for party reeling from defeat

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.

Reuters (January 26, 2022): Hungary to host global right-wing populists in support of PM Orban

Zoltan Simon, Bloomberg (January 24, 2022): Why a Vote on Orban’s Rule Reverberates Across Europe

Edit Inotai, Balkan Insight (January 21, 2022): Hungary Opposition Cheered by ‘Symbolic Victory’ on Referendum

Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian (January 20, 2022): European MEPs call for election observation mission to Hungary

Serbia 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.

Euractiv (January 26, 2022): Serbia’s main ruling coalition partners decide to run separately in elections

BBC (January 21, 2022): Serbia revokes Rio Tinto lithium mine permits following protests

Sofija Popović , European Western Balkans (January 21, 2022): Will the adoption of constitutional changes accelerate Serbia’s EU integration process?

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.

Jonathan Miller, The Spectator (January 26, 2022): France’s election has become a race for second place

Kim Willsher, The Guardian (January 26, 2022): Anne Hidalgo vows to stay in race for French presidency despite dismal polls: Socialist trailing on 3% of the vote amid bitter divisions on left

Constant Méheut, New York Times (January 26, 2022): Macron’s Comments on Algeria Resonate as Elections Loom

Devin Watkins, Vatican News (January 25, 2022): French Bishops urge discernment ahead of presidential elections

AFP (January 21, 2022): French politicians worry about surge in pre-election violence

Aurelien Bredeen, New York Times (January 20, 2022): France, with an election approaching, sets a timeline to lift pandemic restrictions.

Slovenia General Elections: April 24, 2022

Slovenia will hold general elections on April 24, 2022. The current government is a conservative minority coalition headed by populist Janez Janša. It came to power in January 2020 after the center-left minority government of Marjan Šarec collapsed.

AP (January 20, 2022): Slovenia’s president to set general election for April 24

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

Malta is due to hold parliamentary elections by June 2022, but early elections are possible. The two main parties are the center-left Labour Party, which currently heads the government, and the center-right Nationalist Party.

Malta Independent (January 25, 2022): Pope set to visit Malta in April, as March election rumours begin

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.

Ian Jones, The Independent (January 24, 2022): Countdown to 2022 local elections about to begin: Boris Johnson will face his first big electoral test since the so-called ‘partygate’ scandal

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. However, 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. According to Reuters, “The Balkan country is going through its worst political crisis since the end of a war in the 1990s after Bosnian Serbs blocked decision-making in national institutions and launched a process to withdraw from the state armed forces, tax system and judiciary.”

Both Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats have threatened to boycott the upcoming elections.

Andrea Dudik, Jasmina Kuzmanovic, and Misha Savic, Bloomberg (January 26, 2022): As World Watches Ukraine, Another Corner of Europe Embraces Russia: Bosnia offers a timely reminder that the fragmentation of the east remains one of the biggest foreign-policy challenges since the Cold War.

Reuters (January 25, 2022): Bosnia risks entering legal and institutional vacuum -corruption watchdog

European Western Balkans (January 25, 2022): Four EP groups urge EU Member States to change “appeasement” strategy towards Dodik

Dilara Aslan, Daily Sabah (January 23, 2022): Turkey to boost diplomatic efforts to ease Bosnia tensions: Experts

AP (January 21, 2022): Envoy: US will sanction those who undermine peace in Bosnia

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 the motion succeeds.

Alexander Brezar, Euronews (January 27, 2022): Montenegro lurches back into political crisis as former allies try to oust PM

Samir Kajosevic, Balkan Insight (January 21, 2022): Pressure Rises Within Montenegro’s Crumbling Govt for Early Polls

Past Europe Elections

Finland County Elections: January 23, 2022

On January 23, 2022, Finland held elections to newly-created county councils. These councils will assume responsibility for providing healthcare (the responsibility previously fell to municipal councils). The conservative National Coalition Party won the most votes, but the left-wing coalition that currently forms the national government collectively won more seats. General elections are due in 2023.

YLE News (January 24, 2022): County elections: NCP clinches win as ‘big three’ make a comeback: Finland went to the polls on Sunday to elect new county councils.

Cyprus, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus Snap Elections: January 22, 2022 and Republic of Cyprus Presidential Election: February 2023 (due)

Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, held snap parliamentary elections on January 22 following the resignation of the government. The nationalist National Unity Party (UBP) won 24 out of 50 seats.

In last year’s presidential election, Ankara-backed nationalist Ersin Tatar of UBP won a narrow, surprise victory. Tatar supports a separate state for Northern Cyprus, while his opponent, Mustafa Akinci, backs full unification with the south. Thus Tatar’s win exacerbated tensions on the island. The elections took place amid widespread protests and a tanking economy.

Cyprus is divided between the mostly Greek-speaking south and the Turkish-speaking north, and both Greece and Turkey play in the country’s politics.

Menelaos Hadjicostis, AP (January 26, 2022): Turkish Cypriot leader: Vote endorses 2-state Cyprus deal

Al Jazeera (January 25, 2022): Pro-Ankara UBP wins majority in Turkish Cypriot polls: UBP will have to form a coalition to govern the breakaway state, which has been hit by COVID-19 and the Turkish currency crisis.

AFP (January 23, 2022): Turkish Cypriots vote under shadow of economic crisis

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

RFE/RL (January 25, 2022): Leaders Of Bulgaria, North Macedonia Bullish On Talks To Improve Ties

Svetoslav Todorov, Balkan Insight (January 25, 2022): Bulgaria, North Macedonia PMs Hail Partnership, Play Down Disputes

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.

Aleksandar Samardjiev, Observatorio Balcani (January 26, 2022): North Macedonia: new premier, new European perspectives?

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

David Hutt, Euronews (January 21, 2022): Czech left-wing parties are at rock bottom. Can they make a comeback? 

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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