March 15th, parliamentary elections
The outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right party won the most votes (33 seats), while populist Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration party came in second with lower-than-expected results. Christian Democrats and Greens followed in vote percentage. Because of this, observers hailed the election as a rejection of populism in Europe, but Wilder’s party will still be the largest opposition bloc in Parliament and Rutte’s party has hardened its immigration policies in response to Wilders. Rutte’s party finalized coalition talks with the Christian Democrats, the D66 and the Christian Union in October, after a record-breaking seven months. The governing platform is more conservative than usual in this liberal country.
March 26th, parliamentary elections
The center-right, pro-European GERB party won the most votes, narrowly beating the the pro-Russian Socialists who came in second. Yet GERB did not gain a majority of seats and will be required to form a governing coalition, which the Socialists have already refused to join. Borissov, party leader, has elected to form a coalition with United Patriots, a coalition of three small parties that campaigned on a nationalist, pro-Russian platform in the March elections. Bulgaria is the poorest EU country and is at high risk of Russian influence and capture.
April 16th, referendum on major constitutional reform that would substantially increase executive power for President Erdogan
The amendments passed on April 16 with a narrow margin of 51.4%, thus transforming Turkey’s parliamentary system into a presidential one and reinforcing the role of President Erdogan. Turkey is a NATO member and crucial to regional stability in the Middle East and the Black Sea region. Turkey has undergone significant internal transformation following the failed coup on July 15, 2016, which has translated into movement towards authoritarianism.
April 23rd (1st round),May 7th (2nd round), presidential election; June 11th-18th, legislative elections
Emmanuel Macron, the outsider centrist, won the presidency, and his newly-formed La République en Marche party won a majority of seats in the legislative elections (308 seats out of 377). France is an EU and NATO member. Macron has the opportunity to shape the future of France and the European Union if he can implement the reforms on which he campaigned.
June 8th, parliamentary elections
Though Prime Minister Theresa May called snap elections to ascertain her legitimacy as she leads the United Kingdom into difficult Brexit negotiations with the European Union, her gamble backfired. The Conservative Party lost its majority in parliament, and was forced to strike a confidence-and-supply agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. Her hand both in Brexit negotiations and internal politics was substantially weakened, and her position is now in jeopardy as Brexit talks have shown no substantial sign of progress. Labour has gained an impressive popularity during and since the election. The U.K. is a NATO member and, for now, an EU member. It is crucial to European security and defense, as well as intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation.
September 11th, parliamentary elections
In a close election, Norway’s center-right Conservative Party and its partners (including the populist Progress Party, the CP’s governing coalition partner since 2013) won a majority in the parliamentary elections held on September 11. The four parties jointly obtained 89 seats in the 169-seat parliament. The opposition Labour Party won a plurality but still dropped 5 seats to 49, its second-worst result in 90 years and a painful defeat. The Conservative Party’s comeback victory was a surprise given the country’s difficult economic situation following the 2014-2015 oil price plunge – Norway is Western Europe’s biggest oil producer – and the coalition’s novelty as the most right-wing government ever elected in Norway. Prime Minister Erna Solberg now leads a minority coalition with the anti-immigration Progress Party. The small center-right Liberal Party could join the coalition before the end of the year.
September 24th, parliamentary elections
CDU/CSU won 33 percent of the vote; SPD 20.5 percent; AfD 12.6 percent; FDP 10.7 percent; Die Linke 9.2 percent; and the Greens 8.9 percent.
After failed preliminary coalition talks with the FDP and the Greens, Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU struck an agreement to form another Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats. The coalition has a majority of 44 seats in the 709-member Bundestag (355 needed for a majority). Prioritizing stability, Merkel’s new government offered the SPD some important ministerial posts such as Finance, Justice and Foreign Affairs.
October 1st, disputed referendum for unilateral independence; December 21st, snap regional elections
Pro-independence parties did not gain a majority of votes (47.5%) but they won a majority of seats (70) and could thus form a coalition if they can agree on a governing agreement. Ciudadanos, the anti-independence centrist party, topped the polls with 25.4%, while Carles Puigdemont's party Junts per Catalunya came in 2nd with 21.6% of the vote. Prime Minister Rajoy's party only won 4.2%, a poor showing for the party in charge of the central government.
The independence drive has been stuck in limbo since some separatist leaders were arrested and are being tried for rebellion, and Carles Puigdemont has been in exile in Belgium despite the arrest warrant put out against him by a Spanish court (he was recently arrested in Germany on his way back to Belgium from Finland). The Catalan parliament has been unable to elect a regional president and the clock is ticking toward potential new elections in the region, which will automatically be triggered in two months barring the election of a president.
October 15th, parliamentary elections
Earlier this year, center-right Austrian People’s Party leader Sebastian Kurz triggered early elections by pulling out of the ruling coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPO). He renamed the party “List Sebastian Kurz – The New People’s Party” (OVP) and adopted stricter immigration policies for the platform. This propelled the party to the top of the polls, with the SPO second and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) in third place. Kurz is now in coalition talks with the FPO. Austria is an EU member.
20-21 October, parliamentary elections
ANO 29.6%; ODS 11.3%; Pirate Party 10.7%; Freedom and Direct Democracy 10.6%; KSCM 7.7%; CSSD 7.2%; KDU-CSL 5.8%; TOP 09 5.3%. ANO leader Andrej Babis has been appointed by President Zeman to form a governing coalition (ANO gained 78 of the 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, short of a majority). He has run into resistance from some parties that refuse to enter into a coalition with him while he is under investigation for subsidy fraud. However, the Social Democrats have softened their stance and the two parties are in talks to reach a coalition agreement that would be tacitly supported by the Communists (KSCM) to reach a majority in the Chamber (ANO’s 78 seats, CSSD’s 15 seats, and KSCM’s 15 seats).
Unanticipated but Possible Early Elections:
- Italy: September (earliest), parliamentary elections that are not due until 2018.The ruling Democratic Party is neck and neck with the populist, Eurosceptic 5-Star Movement in the polls, as Italy continues to struggle with party divisions and the migration crisis. Italy is an EU and NATO member, and its mounting debt burden and fragility of its bank sector challenge Europe’s economic recovery.
- Greece: unclear, parliamentary elections. Although elections would not occur before 2019, the ruling far-left Syriza party has lost some popularity among its electorate since implementing difficult reforms to receive several tranches of bailout funds to sustain its debt burden. With new demands to reduce pensions and impose additional taxes, the government could seek early elections in an effort to shore up support for Syriza’s anti-austerity stance and bring fresh pressure on Greece’s creditors and international markets. The center-right New Democracy Party is currently ahead in the polls.