Two popular caretaker ministers could attract a significant share of protest votes in Bulgaria‘s parliamentary elections scheduled for 14 November. In Croatia, a small right-wing party will attempt to initiate a referendum on the country’s potential entry into the eurozone at the start of 2023. Hungary‘s opposition parties are starting primary elections to pick their joint candidates in next year’s parliamentary elections. The unexpected hospitalization of the Czech Republic‘s President Milos Zeman raises concerns about his health and ability to perform his duties.
Today, 16 September, President Rumen Radev (independent) dissolved parliament and appointed a new caretaker cabinet headed by acting Prime Minister Stefan Yanev (also independent). A new caretaker government will lead the country into the third general election this year to be held along with the first round of the presidential elections on 14 November. A failure by the winner of the July elections, There is Such People (ITN) party, to form a coalition government will likely cost it a significant share of votes, which could be picked up by former caretaker ministers of economy and finance Kiril Petkov and Asen Vassilev, respectively, who plan to participate in the upcoming vote. Since there is not enough time to set up a new party ahead of the election, the popular duo will have to join an already existing political party/electoral coalition. For now, it is unclear which political party they intend to join.
Following Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s recent statement that the country will be ready to join the eurozone at the start of 2023, a radical right party, Croatian Sovereignists (HS), reaffirmed their plans to initiate a referendum called “Let’s protect the Croatian kuna”. HS claims that the introduction of the euro will result in significant price increases thereby lowering living standards. To call a referendum, initiators need to collect signatures of 10% of the country’s electorate (around 380,000) within two weeks. While this is a tall order, initiators of a 2013 constitutional referendum on the definition of marriage managed to collect more than 700,000 signatures in less than 14 days. The signature collection drive is expected to start on 17 October. Opinion polls show that public opinion on euro adoption is split rather evenly.
The 77-year-old President Milos Zeman (independent) was unexpectedly hospitalized on Tuesday, 14 September, for undisclosed reasons. Zeman is known to have several medical conditions and has been hospitalized multiple times in recent years. According to the country’s constitution, if the president cannot perform his duties for serious reasons or if the president passes away while in office, the president’s duties are distributed between the prime minister and speakers of both chambers of parliament. Yet, in light of the upcoming 8-9 October parliamentary elections, the president’s right to appoint a prime minister-designate after the general election would be waived and would rest with the newly elected speaker of the lower chamber of parliament. Given mutually supportive ties between Zeman and Prime Minister Andrej Babis, the president’s premature departure from office ahead of an election would likely weaken Babis’ chances of remaining in office after the election.
Six opposition parties will start the first round of primary elections on 18 September to elect their prime ministerial candidate as well as candidates running for parliament in 106 single-mandate districts in the general elections scheduled for spring 2022. The opposition’s joint prime ministerial candidate will be elected in a countrywide vote (both in person and online) out of five pre-qualified contenders: Klara Dobrev (Democratic Coalition), Andras Fekete-Gyor (Momentum Movement), Peter Jakab (Jobbik), Gergely Karacsony (Dialogue for Hungary), and Peter Marki-Zay (independent). The three top performers in the first round – most likely Dobrev, Jakab, and Karacsony – will compete in a second-round runoff, which is scheduled to conclude on 10 October. For now, the Budapest mayor, Karacsony, appears to hold an edge in the race, although polling data is highly inconsistent. He would likely hold best chances to challenge incumbent Viktor Orban in the national-level elections. Karacsony’s rival Jakab is leading a formerly radical nationalist Jobbik party, while Dobrev faces a challenge to escape the shadow of her husband, unpopular former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.