Europe This Week: May 4, 2022

May 4, 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.

A “peace wall” separating Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Keith Ruffles (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

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 for the first time ever. By far the biggest issue in public debate is Northern Ireland’s trade arrangements following Brexit.

Suzanne Lynch, Politico (May 5, 2022): What Northern Ireland is really voting for: With the nationalist Sinn Féin party gaining ground on both sides of the border, Irish unity has never been closer.

Emmy Vardy, BBC (May 4, 2022): Election 2022: Is Northern Ireland headed for a seismic shift?

The Economist (May 4, 2022 – podcast): “Voters could choose a party that does not want the country to exist”—Elections in Northern Ireland

Amanda Ferguson, Washington Post (May 2, 2022): Sinn Fein could see landmark win in Northern Ireland elections Thursday

Zachary Basu, Axios (May 2, 2022): Boris Johnson’s scandals loom over key local elections

Germany 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.

In May, Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia go to the polls. Schleswig-Holstein currently has a “Jamaica coalition” government – CDU, FDP, and the Greens. North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, is currently governed by a CDU-FDP coalition.

In March, Saarland held state elections. The incumbent government, a grand coalition of CDU and SPD, fell as SPD won a historic landslide.

AP (May 3, 2022): German opposition leader visits Kyiv, Scholz refuses to go: Germany’s conservative opposition leader has traveled to Kyiv for meetings with Ukrainian officials including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Paul Gordon, Clean Energy Wire (May 2, 2022): Gas imports and hydrogen put centre stage in northern German election

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (April 29, 2022 – in German): Survey: CDU ahead in the election in Schleswig-Holstein

Iceland Local Elections: May 14, 2022

Iceland holds local elections on May 14. These follow last September’s elections to the Althing, Iceland’s parliament (which has a strong claim to the title of oldest parliament in the world). The incumbent government, a broad coalition of the Left-Green Movement, the conservative Independence Party, and the agrarian Progressive Party, remained in power following those elections. More

Andie Sophia Fontaine, Reykjavik Grapevine (April 29, 2022): Reykjavík Elections Poll: Independence Party Losses Are Progressive Party’s Gains

France 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.

In total, 12 candidates qualified for the first round of the presidential election (by obtaining 500 signatures of elected officials). Pre-election polls were all over the place, but the runoff was a rematch between Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen, whom Macron defeated in 2017. Macron once again won. However, the upcoming legislative elections could create challenges for his agenda if his allies do not win a majority.

Nicholas Charron and Monika Bauhr, London School of Economics (May 4, 2022): Perceptions of quality of government and support for Marine Le Pen in the 2022 French presidential election

Victor Jack, Politico (May 4, 2022): French Socialists, far left unite to fight Macron in parliament election: The deal will mark the first electoral pact for France’s left-wing parties in 20 years.

David Coffey, RFI (May 4, 2022): French firebrand Zemmour to field 550 candidates in legislative polls

Tom Wheeldon and Aude Mazque, France24 (May 3, 2022): France’s conservatives torn over Macron’s ‘siren call’ before parliamentary polls

Victor Jack, Politico (May 2, 2022): French Greens vow to ‘disobey’ EU rules in electoral pact with far left: The move is a surprising turn for the Greens, usually hard-line Europhiles.

Matthieu Pollet, Euractiv (May 3, 2022): French Greens defend pact with Mélenchon’s party ahead of legislatives

AFP (April 29, 2022): Le Pen will stand in French parliamentary elections

Dave Keating, World Politics Review (April 28, 2022): Macron Is Now the EU’s De Facto Leader

Sweden Parliamentary Elections: September 11, 2022

Sweden holds general elections on September 11, 2022.

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, succeeded him and became Sweden’s first female prime minister.

Most recently, Sweden (and Finland) begun debates about joining NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The opposition Moderates, Sweden’s main center-right party, have said they support this, while the incumbent Social Democrats are split.

Patrick Wintour, The Guardian (May 4, 2022): Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats divided on decision to join Nato

Gerard O’Dwyer, Defense News (May 1, 2022): Finland and Sweden intensify talks on joint NATO application

Elizabeth Braw, Foreign Policy (April 29, 2022): The NATO Accession Sweden Never Saw Coming: Finland has taken the lead, but its famously skeptical neighbor is following.

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. The tensions have gone Europe-wide as Croatia’s president has threatened to veto NATO membership for Finland and Sweden unless Bosnia

RFE/RL (May 4, 2022): Bosnia Calls Elections For October 2 Amid Concerns Over Lack of Electoral Reforms

Balkan Insight (May 3, 2022): Media Freedom Remains Major Concern in Balkans, Watchdog Says

Hamza Karcic, TRT World (May 3, 2022): Understanding Croatia’s anti-Bosnia agenda

Rusmir Smajilhodzic, AFP (April 29, 2022): Russia accused of stoking divisions in Bosnia amid war in Ukraine

Pekka Vanttinen and Zeljko Trkanjec, Euractiv (April 27, 2022): Croatian president says Finland, Sweden cannot join NATO before election law change in BiH

Montenegro Parliamentary Elections: By August 2024 (early elections possible)

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 was generally pro-Moscow.

The government recently fell a no-confidence motion, which could have led to early elections in May. However, Dritan Abazovic, leader of the pro-Western Black on White, subsequently formed a minority government, along with various ethnic minority parties. Abazovic has promised early elections in spring 2023.

Montenegro joined NATO in 2017, but some Montenegrins prefer closer ties with Russia and Serbia.

Predrag Milic, AP (April 28, 2022): Montenegro lawmakers elect pro-EU government after crisis

Samir Kajosevic, Balkan Insight (April 28, 2022): Opposition Boycotts Election of Montenegro’s First Minority Govt: Dritan Abazovic became Montenegro’s new Prime Minister on Thursday, heading a minority parliament with a one-year mandate to prepare for early elections next spring

Past Europe Elections

Cyprus, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus Snap Elections: January 22, 2022

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.

Ömer Bilge, Hurriyet Daily News (May 2, 2022): Turkish Cyprus PM resigns for 2nd time in 10 days

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. Most recently, it cut off gas exports to Bulgaria (and Poland) in retaliation for EU sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. More

David O’Byrne, Al-Monitor (May 4, 2022): Bulgaria looks to Turkey for help with gas shortage: Russia has cut gas exports to Bulgaria, leaving Sofia looking to Ankara, which has some tough decisions to make.

RFE/RL (April 28, 2022): Bulgarian PM, Main Ruling Party Vow Support To Arm Ukraine After Gazprom Cutoff

Europe Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

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

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

Iceland Local Elections: May 14, 2022

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

France Legislative Elections: June 12 and 19, 2022

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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