2021 Political Summer Forecast: the Trouble Spots
Anton Rovenskyy, Master of International Relations, International Political Scientist
This summer seems to be full of dynamic changes and conflicts in the international politics, therefore might become very intriguing. The top list of must-watch summer political events are presented in the article below.
Elections in Moldova
As a result of the 2020 presidential elections at the end of the year, there are two main centers of power in Moldova. Pro-Western Maia Sandu has become the president of Moldova, while the parliament is under the effective control of Igor Dodon, pro-Russian former president, and his Socialist party. The clash between two branches of power, which reciprocally blocked respective initiatives, has to finish after the elections on July 11. Pro-president political parties headed by PAS (‘Action and Solidarity’) are likely to win the run and form a new majority in the parliament.
However, there is another matter as the coalitions in Moldova are traditionally situational and unstable. This means that it is clearly premature to declare Dodon and the Socialists Party to be in uncontested opposition in the near future.
Moreover, Moldova is not in the focus of European and US foreign policy. Even if Maia Sandu gains full power, one can hardly expect an active process of rapprochement between Chisinau and Brussels and Washington. Romania, of which Maia Sandu is a citizen, is likely to play the leading role in the Dniester-Danube region.
The withdrawal of strategic assets from the national jurisdiction should be noted an even more important factor in Moldovan domestic politics. The latest example: the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has bought out the operator of the Moldovan International Free Port of Giurgiulesti.
Elections in Armenia
Early parliamentary elections in Armenia, which came as a result of a long-term national political crisis after a heavy defeat in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, will take place on June 20. After the military loss, Armenia teetered on the brink of a coup d'etat, therefore, the incumbent PM Nikol Pashinyan had any option but to announce early parliamentary elections.
Despite the Nagorno-Karabakh defeat to become a serious blow to the Armenian national identity, Pashinyan has relatively high chances to retain the office and form a ‘personal’ parliamentary majority. Having in mind that Pashinyan is in control of a serious social base and administrative resource, the opposing political elite, a so-called "Karabakh clan", represented by former presidents Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sargsyan, has extremely low ratings and is much less sophisticated in electoral technologies.
However, it is doubtful that Pashinyan's next term will help to stop the deterioration of Armenian state. Therefore, more political crises of various intensity might disturb the nation. In this case, Armenia is under a threat of its unfriendly environment, which can menace the republic with very unpleasant consequences.
Elections in Bulgaria
In early May, Bulgarian president Rumen Radev signed a decree to dissolve the national parliament and hold early elections on 11 July. The inability of the fragmented parliamentary corps to form a government after the April parliamentary elections was the main motive for this act.
The main intrigue of the upcoming election is whether the era of Boyko Borisov, who is repeatedly in charge of the government since 2009 with some small interruptions, along with the dominance of his party GERB (‘Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria’), will cease to an end. And the chances are very high indeed.
According to the April popular vote, GERB was victorious with the result of 26.2%, but was not successful in forming a new majority and, accordingly, the government (its opponents also failed to assemble a coalition due to disagreements). According to recent opinion polls, GERB is likely to lose some more 3-4% in July. Moreover, during his office, Boyko Borisov has become an extremely “toxic” politician, followed by a train of accusations of corruption, attacks on freedom of speech and autocratic methods of government, losing the trust of both Brussels and Washington. These two factors may become instrumental in the process of Borisov's power erosion, launched after the April elections, and ultimately lead to the loss of leverage over the state machinery.
In this case, one cannot but draw an analogy with Milo Đukanovic, the head of Montenegro, who has lost the Montenegrin 2020 parliamentary elections, losing the monopoly in the national politics, as well as the Moldovan oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, deposed and forced to leave the territory of Moldova in 2019, both losing their reputation in the West.
However, a certain part of the Western elites have fears that ‘post-Borisov’ Bulgaria would become more loyal to the Russian Federation. This notion is relevant to the Bulgarian president Rumen Radev, who has high chances of re-election in autumn 2021. Radev is considered a moderate sympathizer of Russia, while Borisov previously thwarted two energy projects, important for Moscow: the South Stream and the Belene nuclear power plant.
A new round of the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which came to an armistice without reaching a lasting political settlement (with the resumption of hostilities in the mid-term perspective being almost inevitable) forms the background for the parliamentary crisis in Israel. Following the results of the fourth consecutive early Knesset elections on 23 March, there is still no coalition government. The incumbent PM Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a parliamentary majority in due time, until May 5, yielding this right to his political opponents.
Having in mind the armed conflict with Hamas, Netanyahu is able to intercept the alternative political agenda and consolidate a significant part of Israeli political elites. Thus, the chances to extend his PM term are rather high. However, the scenario of holding the fifth (!) in a row early parliamentary elections should not be excluded. In such a case, Netanyahu will probably lose his office, while law enforcement officers will intensify the ongoing criminal cases against him on suspicion of corruption.
One cannot fail to mention, President’s Reuven Rivlin term of office expires in July. The downward spiral of Israeli political intrigue spins ever tighter, with no chances to predict the final result. One should notice, the President of Israel is elected by the Knesset and the new election takes place in early June.
The White House and the Kremlin have agreed upon the conditions of the future meeting of presidents. It will take place on June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The high hopes of the upcoming event are comparable to the 2018 Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki, which ended with no significant result.
The respective diplomatic departments are to draw the agenda of the future summit, however, it seems that expectations are extremely overestimated and there will be no significant progress.
The parties have essentially different positions on a number of global issues and there is no room for a maneuver in foreign policy. For this reason, there is no need to talk about any kind of ‘Big Deal’. There is still consensus only on climate issues, as well as on ensuring strategic stability, as evidenced by the extension of New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in the first weeks of Biden's tenure by Washington and Moscow.
Nevertheless, the Biden-Putin meeting creates a breeding ground for numerous conspiracy theorists to seek for any ‘hidden signals’ in their statements and fabricate new bizarre interpretations.