Once More Unto the Polls, Dear Friends

November 2021 Monthly Foresight

2 November 2021

Bulgarians will have yet another chance to change the course of the country in elections held mid-November while Belarus and Russia are set to integrate further later in the week. The weather has yet to turn cold, but energy is already playing a key role in both the economy and politics of the region with gas flows from Russia greatly reduced. 

Main takeaways for November:

  • Bulgarians will head to the polls again this month in the third contest in less than a year. Unfortunately, the possibility of a political stalemate remains.
  • Warsaw appears to be bowing to EU pressure regarding the controversial changes to the judiciary which run afoul rule of law standards. At the same time, the European Parliament has filed a lawsuit against the EU Commission over the failure to invoke the conditionality mechanism that freezes access to EU funds for rule of law violations.
  • European gas supply is being threatened by Russia regardless of statements to the contrary from Vladimir Putin. 
  • 31 October — 12 November: UN climate change conference (COP 26) hosted in Glasgow, UK, bringing 197 parties to the table, including heads of state from the CEE. The President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) is planning a visit to the V4 Countries after COP26.
  • 3 November: Congressional Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Helsinki Committee, is having a hearing on democratic backsliding in Hungary and Poland.
  • 4 November: Russian President Vladimir Putin due to sign integration agreements with Belarus.  
  • The fifth package of EU sanctions is expected to come into force in mid-November against Belarus.
  • The latest figures show that the eurozone is experiencing the highest level of inflation since the Great Recession at 4.1 per cent, largely driven by a persistent energy crunch. The Commission expects energy costs to remain high until springtime.

Intractable Electorate

It has been a turbulent year across the region, but nowhere more so than in Bulgaria, which has been caught in a political quagmire. In April, former-PM Borisov was forced to step down after nearly twelve years in office (albeit not continuously). His party GERB had an upset loss after massive public anti-corruption protests led to a boost for new parties and those in the opposition. However, no coalition was feasible as the diverse landscape in Sofia led to a technocratic government that enacted changes to the election law many saw as unfairly benefitting Borisov’s party. Even after these procedural changes were enacted, a similar electoral situation repeated itself in July, suggesting that the supporters for the parties are more recalcitrant than initially thought.

Now, with Bulgaria’s third attempt at voting for a new government just days away (14 November), GERB is still the leading party (by a large margin) in recent polls due to a new, centrist party ‘We Continue the Change’, which has syphoned off votes from the previous election winner ‘There Is Such a People’.


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