Autumn 2021: Political forecast and overview
Anton Rovenskyy, Master of International Relations, International Political Scientist
The season of low political activity, which traditionally falls in August, has come to an end. September is widely considered as the first month of a new political season, so let’s look through its main intrigues in a material below.
Federal elections in Germany
In January 2021, Armin Laschet has become a leader of the ruling Christian-Democratic Union (CDU), aiming to get or, to be more exact, politically inherit the Chancellor seat after the results of the autumn elections to Bundestag. While such a scenario was the most realistic in January 2021, the events of the following months were definitely a nasty surprise for CDU.
In March 2021, CDU has lost the elections in two western federal lands. By the end of this spring, the Greens turned out to hold the leader position in the electoral race. In the following months, the growing leadership of the Greens appeared to be unstable and CDU regained its positions. However, massive summer floods in Germany hit hard the positions of the Merkel party and of her potential ancestor as well. As for today, the Social-Democratic Party (SDP) has the biggest support, with one of its leaders, Olaf Scholz, having far better personal support than Armin Laschet, and being considered as a serious contender for the seat of the Federal Chancellor. In return, CDU popular support is at the minimum historical levels.
By the end of her term, Angela Merkel has to make monumental efforts to save the majority interest for CDU in German politics and lead Armin Laschet to the ruling seat. However, the current social and political tendencies, as well as nation’s fatigue with ‘the Merkel course’ definitely play against CDU at least for now.
Future developments in Afghanistan
The ‘Taliban’ come into force in Afghanistan should not be a surprise for those experts, who have followed the region of Central Asia for a long time. However, many states, especially the European ones, who face new waves of migrants from Afghanistan, turned out to be not ready for this. Simultaneously, two blocks try to have a strong presence in economy and logistics of the ‘post-American’ country: China-Pakistan and Turkey-Qatar. Considering new Afghani migrants to the EU, a bunch of European politicians point out that the EU has to deal closer with Turkey, which settled refugee camps on its territory in 2015-16, being heavily donated from the official Brussels. Nowadays, such a case is likely to be repeated once more by the official Ankara.
The aftershocks of the fall of pro-American power in Afghanistan will be heard in the USA and Western Europe for a long time. The 2022 US federal elections, the abovementioned autumn federal elections in Germany, electoral campaigns in Eastern European countries: all of these events would be influenced by the situation in Afghanistan, as well as many other political, economic and social processes worldwide.
Political turbulence in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Christian Schmidt, the member of CDU and the former member of the Merkel government, has become the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina on 1 August 2021. He has changed Valentin Inzko, who has hold this position for 12 years. One should point out, the system of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina is constructed according to the 1995 Dayton agreements, which means that the High Representative has extremely vast authorities, being the last instance in the decision-making process (including the veto right on the decisions of the Bosnian legislative bodies).
As far as the UN Security Council has not approved the change of the High Representative, the Serbian part of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republika Srpska), as well as Russia and China, do not recognize Schmidt’s full powers. With such a decision, the conflict between Serbian part of Bosnia and the High Representative, provoked by a number of decisions by the parliament of Republika Srpska and the Office of the former High Representative Valentin Inzko considering the politics of memory, has intensified.
For several years, the most radical part of the national elites of Republika Srpska has been talking on the possible secession from Bosnia, while their equally radical opponents from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Croatian Muslim Federation) advocate the abolition of the Republika Srpska and the transformation of Bosnia into a unitary state. The chance of such scenarios to come into life is low at the moment, however, if the slow-going confrontation continues and the socio-economic situation in Bosnia continues to deteriorate, local elites may be seriously tempted to turn social discontent into ethnic confrontation. Probably, in this case, the EU structures should have their say, for example, clearly outlining the European integration prospects for Bosnia, which will make it possible to soften the national contradictions in the country.
Czech parliamentary elections
‘The Czech Trump’, a nickname of the incumbent prime minister Andrej Babis during 2017 elections, who is also the founder of the populist ANO party, has relatively high chances to remain in his post of the head of the government. According to polls, ANO ratings barely drop below 30%.
However, the official Brussels is not in favor of the next possible premiership of Babis. Firstly, the European Commission previously recognized that Babis had a conflict of interest due to his control over the business, the transnational holding Agrofert, which in its turn received subsidies from the EU structural funds. The case has been referred to the European Prosecutor's Office, which has been operating in Luxembourg since 1 June 2021. Secondly, the Czech Republic under Babis rule has sabotaged a number of European initiatives, primarily related to migration problems, by strengthening cooperation with partners from Poland and Hungary, known for their critical attitude to the EU.
For these reasons, the political future of Babis and his ANO party is not so bright as it may seem from the recent polls.
Protest activities in the Baltic States
In summer 2021, a wave of popular protests in Lithuania and Latvia has involved several thousand people, which is a significant event for the Baltic States. The last time these countries have faced such protests was the global economic crisis of 2008-09. The Baltic States were among the most affected from the fall of global markets among the EU member-states, which caused a noticeable reduction in social guarantees and an increase in the tax burden.
The current summer protests were triggered by severe anti-COVID-19 restrictions and the worsening socio-economic situation caused by both the pandemic and the reduction in labor migration opportunities to Western Europe (including the post-Brexit UK). In Lithuania, the protests further spurred the confrontation between political factions oriented towards the incumbent president and the “old” political establishment, as well as the migration crisis associated with the infiltration of thousands of immigrants from the Middle East from Belarus border.
Whereas the reasons for the protests are not excluded, there is definitely no doubt the public unrest would pick up the pace this autumn. So far, the authorities of the Baltic States use prohibition measures, trying to stop protest activity. So, according to the recommendations of the Lithuanian State Security Department, a rally of 15 thousand people in Vilnius, which was planned on September 10, was also prohibited.
What is different about this is that the political class of the Baltic States is quite homogeneous, and even in the event of opposition forces coming into power as a result of street actions and parliamentary crises, the internal and foreign policies of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia will undergo only cosmetic changes. And the objective reduction in the resource base does not allow us to speak of the possibility of any significant growth in social standards.
Reelections in Bulgaria
The ongoing political crisis in Bulgaria is going to extend: the parties show no ability to form a government as the result of two parliamentary elections, both of which were held in spring and summer of the current year respectively. As for now, the nation is on the edge of the third parliamentary elections of the year, which may be held together with the presidential elections in November 2021. The political field of Bulgaria can be significantly reformatted this autumn, while the EU structures are interested in minimizing the conditionally pro-Russian tilt in the Bulgarian policy following the elections. One should recall, the elected Bulgarian President Rumen Radev was considered friendly to Moscow, which came as a surprise, having in mind the events of 2014, when the official Sofia blocked the ‘South Stream’ energy project, important for the Russian Federation.
One of the current intrigues is the future position of the former Bulgarian premier in 2009-2021 Boyko Borissov, which was under severe criticism of the EU due to the autocratic methods of government. Moreover, one should point out the matter of changing relations between Bulgaria, the EU and the North Macedonia considering the European integration of the latter and the position of the official Sofia and Northern Macedonian ethnic and cultural policy.
One also should point out the new anti-COVID-2019 restrictions, which come into force since 7 September 2021. Bulgaria is the least vaccinated nation in the EU, and the new wave of restrictions will definitely influence the country’s political processes in the coming months.