Slowing economic activity, high inflation, energy insecurities and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine look set to dominate any election campaigns this year. In this Just the Facts, we look ahead to the key elections in the EU to watch during 2023: Poland, Spain, Finland, Greece and Estonia.
1 | Poland (October or November 2023)
All 460 seats in the lower-house Sejm and the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested in the election that will take place in either October or November. At the last elections in October 2019, the right-wing Law and Justice party retained its majority in the Sejm, with 235 seats, a drop of five compared to the October 2015 election. However, it lost its majority in the Senate, winning 48, a drop of 14. It is currently polling at around 36%.
Its main challenger is the centre-right Civic Platform which is polling at around 29% and is led by Donald Tusk. He was previously Prime Minister of Poland from November 2007 to September 2014, becoming President of the European Council in December that year until November 2019.
The two other major opposition groups include the liberal Poland 2050 and a coalition of three left-wing parties called Left and are polling at around 10% and 9% respectfully.
The Polish government has been in a protracted conflict with the EU over the erosion of the rule of law in the country. For example, in July 2021, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that the disciplinary system for judges in Poland was “not compatible with EU law”.
The outcome of the Polish parliamentary election may impact the trajectory of the rule of law in the country, and the EU more broadly.
2 | Spain (No later than 10 December 2023)
The scheduled general elections for later this year will come as Spain takes over the six-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU from Sweden in July.
All 350 members of the lower house of the Congreso de los Diputados and 208 of the 265 seats in the Senate will be elected. The last election look place in October 2019, after parties were unable to form a government after elections in April.
The October elections saw the centre-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) become the largest party winning 120 seats, a drop of three compared to the election in April. At that election it won 123, an increase of 38. In the Senate, PSOE was again the largest party winning 93 seats in October, a decline of 30 compared to the April election, when it won 123 seats, a gain of 80.
After the October 2019 election, PSOE entered a minority government coalition with the left-wing party United We Can, the first coalition government since Spain returned to democracy in the late 1970s.
Ahead of the general election in May, regional elections will take place in 12 of the 17 autonomous Spanish parliaments. The results are likely to be seen as a barometer of public sentiment for all parties, in particular PSOE. Of the 12 regional elections, PSOE is part of governments in six, with regional affiliations in two others.
Current polling suggests, the centre-right People’s Party stands at 30%, while PSOE is at 26%. Behind them is the right-wing party Vox (Latin for ‘voice’), which is polling at around 15%, while United We Can is at 11%.
Observers will be watching the performance of Vox, after right-wing parties made electoral gains in Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy and Sweden in 2022.
3 | Finland (2 April 2023)
Finland will elect all 200 members of the Eduskunta this year. Sanna Marin became Prime Minister of Finland in December 2019, aged 34. She has spearheaded a transformation of the country’s security and defence policy in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The country applied to join NATO in May 2022, along with Sweden, ending its long-standing policy of non-alignment that began after its independence from Sweden in December 1917. Some 76% of people support NATO membership.
According to polling, Sanna Marin’s centre-left Social Democratic Party of Finland is second most popular party with around 19% of the electorate. It shares similar levels of polling with the far-right Finns Party. Leading polling at present, with 23%, is the centre-right National Coalition Party.
These three parties won similar numbers of seats at the last election in April 2019: Social Democratic Party of Finland won 40 (+6), Finns Party won 39 (+1) and the National Coalition Party won 38 (+1).
The Social Democratic Party of Finland is in a coalition government with the Centre Party of Finland (11%) and has 31 seats, the Green League (10%) has 20 seats, the Left Alliance (9%) has 16 seats, and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland (4%) has nine seats.
Due to the closeness of the polling at present, the election in April could see the current coalition government unable to return enough seats to form another government.
4 | Greece (by July 2023)
All 300 seats in the Elliniko Kinovoulio will be voted on in Greece’s general election this year. The last general election in July 2019 saw the centre-right New Democracy win 158 seats, an increase of 83 from the last election in September 2015. It allowed Kyriakos Mitsotakis to lead a single-party government. The second biggest party currently is the left-wing Coalition of the Radical Left, led by Alexis Tsipras. It won 86 seats at the last election, a loss of 59.
Polling highlights that both parties are currently receiving similar levels of public support at the time of the last election in July 2019: New Democracy with 36% and Coalition of the Radical Left with 29%.
In January 2023, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis specified that an election would be called from April onwards. Syriza has ruled out a coalition government with New Democracy. The election take place during the ongoing “Greek Watergate” wiretapping scandal.
5 | Estonia (5 March 2023)
One of the first scheduled elections in the EU this year will be in Estonia when the 101 seats in the Riigikogu will be elected in March. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has earned a newfound international standing due to her support for Ukraine and outspoken views on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Kaja Kallas’ response has resulted in an increase in popularity for her centre-right Reform Party. It saw its polling increase from 22% in early February 2022 to around 34% at present. At the last election in March 2019, her Reform Party was the largest in the Riigikogu, winning 34 seats, an increase of four.
The right-wing Conservative People’s Party of Estonia, which is polling second at around 25%, won 19 seats in the last election, an increase of 12. While the Centre Party, polling third at around 15%, won 26 seats in the last election, a loss of one. The Social Democratic Party and Isamaa, the other two parties in the coalition government with Reform Party, are polling each at about 7%.
Further elections to watch out for
Slovakia – after losing a no-confidence vote in December, the current government has until the end of January to find a new majority, before a snap general election is called. The last took place in February 2020.
Bulgaria – after the October 2022 general election, parties have been unable to form a government. If the current attempt of negotiations fails, a snap election will take place, the fifth election in two years. After the scheduled April 2019 election, political deadlock has resulted in snap elections taking place in July and November 2021, and October 2022.
|Full list of Parliamentary elections in EU Member States in 2023|
|5 March 2023 – Estonia|
|2 April 2023 – Finland|
|By July 2023 – Greece|
|8 October 2023 – Luxembourg|
|October or November 2023 – Poland|
|No later than 10 December 2023 – Spain|
|Regional Elections in EU Member States in 2023|
|14 February 2023 – German state of Berlin holds a repeat of its September 2021 state election.|
|14 May 2023 – German state of Bremen.|
|28 May 2023 – 12 of the 17 autonomous Spanish parliaments will hold elections: Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile and León, Castilla–La Mancha, Extremadura, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, and Navarre.|
|October 2023 – German states of Bavarian (Sunday, 8 October) and Hessian (date is currently not set).|