Casting a vote (Flickr)
A new electoral year has begun. European Forum looks ahead to elections to keep an eye on for 2023. In Turkey, the pre-election environment is aimed at curbing opposition by Erdoğan's current government. Montenegro is electing a new president, where the downward spiral of DPS may signal an end to the era of Milo Đukanović. Moreover, elections are scheduled in Ukraine that may not happen.
Turkey: Erdoğan pulls out all the stops to get re-elected
Many eyes will be on Turkey on 18 June 2023, where crucial presidential and parliamentary elections will take place. After a long hegemony of current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AK Party, there seems to be a real chance for the opposition to manage a change of power for the first time in years. Six opposition parties have united as the "Table of Six" and are mainly allied on the basis of anti-Erdoğan sentiment. So the question is whether the opposition can remain united despite major ideological differences. Pressure on Erdoğan has already led to a series of undemocratic measures so far. For instance, a new media law against disinformation has mainly proved to be a mechanism to target government-critical journalists and individuals. Recently, the mayor of Istanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu, a possible key opposition candidate for Erdoğan in the presidential election, was also charged with insulting electoral officials - possibly eliminating him in the election. Moreover, a series of illogical economic measures designed to boost Erdoğan's popularity, such as raising the retirement age and seeking the cancellation of all student debts, do not contain a sound economic rationale in times of high inflation and the plummeting Lira, experts say.
Montenegro: Political crisis in Montenegro may lead to two instead of one election
The political crisis in Montenegro may lead to two elections in 2023. Presidential elections are scheduled for April 2023, and incumbent President Milo Đukanović will have a difficult time securing a new term. His DPS party suffered heavy losses in the last municipal elections on Oct. 23, 2022. With the fall of the minority government led by outgoing Prime Minister Dritan Abazović, who had to step down after a vote of no confidence, but will stay on as caretaker until a new government is formed. With the DPS's big loss, there is a plausible chance of early parliamentary elections, normally due on August 2024. There, the downward spiral initiated by the DPS is expected to continue, and the political shift taking place in Montenegro could thus lead to a new government as well as a new president.
Ukraine: The election that may not take place
Ukraine's parliamentary elections are scheduled for 29 October 2023, but the question is whether they will take place. The war does not seem to be over for now, and getting Ukrainians to the polls in times of war and Russian occupation in parts of Eastern Ukraine seems a difficult task. The question is also whether Ukraine would benefit from a change of power, which could also have a destabilising effect on how Ukraine defends its sovereignty. In 2022, Zelenskyy looked like a largely capable president in times of war. His party Servant of the People doubled its support in a poll just after the invasion of Ukraine. In his New Year speech, praised at home and abroad, Zelenskyy once again showed himself to be a figurehead of this war. A change of power, therefore, seems to be out of the question. In the most plausible scenario, Ukraine's parliamentary elections are postponed to 2024, when they will coincide with the presidential elections.
Other elections: Presidential, parliamentary, and regional elections in Europe
Of course, there are many other important elections. Poland, for example, goes to the polls in November for parliamentary elections, where the incumbent PiS party's United Right alliance looks set to become the largest, according to the polls, despite the leveling gap with the Civic Coalition, an alliance of opposition parties. In a few days, a new president will be elected in the Czech Republic (13-14 January), where current president Miloš Zeman is not eligible for re-election. In Cyprus, a new president will be elected in February. In Estonia, a new parliament will be elected in March, and a month later it will be the turn of the citizens of Finland. There are also general elections in Switzerland (Oct.), Luxembourg (Oct.), and Spain (not yet known). There will be regional elections in Spain (May 28, various districts), Germany (various federal states), and Portugal (Oct., Madeira). In addition, there is a plausible chance of another election in Bulgaria, where the political crisis continues.
Author: Mathieu Neelen