2023 promises to be a crucial electoral year in Europe as voters elect new national leaders in several major countries, including Turkey, Poland and Spain. This article explores the role of the European Green Party (EGP) members in these elections.
Weak foundations: the Greens in Southern Europe
Southern Europe remains a difficult terrain for the Greens, and this will also be the case in the upcoming elections of 2023.
The first national parliamentary election in Europe in 2023 will take place in Monaco on 5 February. However, the EGP has no member party in the country. The same goes for other Southern European microstates, such as Andorra, where national parliamentary elections are set to be held by April, and San Marino, where elections for heads of state are held on 1 April and 1 October of each year.
Kínima Oikológon – Synergasía Politón (KOSP), the EGP member in Cyprus, did not formally endorse anyone for the 5 February 2023 presidential election. In 2022, the party’s central committee held a vote, but none of the candidates reached the required 60% threshold to receive the party’s official endorsement. The most successful candidate was non-partisan and career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis, who received 41% and was initially nominated by the left-wing AKEL party. However, as Europe Elects’ Polychronis Karampelas notes: “There are a lot of prominent KOSP politicians, for example, Efi Xanthou, who are supporting Mavroyiannis anyway. Generally, there is no rule that individual members cannot endorse whomever they want.” The party publicly distanced itself from Xanthou’s endorsement in December 2022. The position of president in Cyprus is a powerful one and represents the country in the European Council.
In Greece, EGP member Oikologoi Prasinoi ran as part of the SYRIZA list in the 2019 national parliament election but failed to win any seats. Karampelas points out that this political arrangement is unlikely to reappear in the next election scheduled for 2023: “Instead of reaching out to SYRIZA, Oikologoi Prasinoi, adhering to their 2022 party congress decision, have participated in establishing the Green and Purple alliance (Πράσινο & Μωβ) together with the Pirate Party of Greece, the Greens, Greens – Solidarity, Party for the Animals and Volt Greece (none of which are - despite some of their leading names - affiliated with the EGP).”
Spain is set to elect a new national parliament in December 2023. The EGP member Verdes Equo would likely be unable to attain parliamentary significance alone and is hence expected to run as part of the Sumar pre-electoral alliance centred around Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz, who also spoke at the European Green Party congress in December 2022.
Montenegro elects a new president in April 2023. Dritan Abazović, Prime Minister of Montenegro (April-August 2022), Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro (2020–2022) and leader of EGP member Građanski pokret Ujedinjena reformska akcija (URA), is a potential contender but has not declared his candidacy yet. A July 2021 CEDEM poll gave Abazović 7% of the first round vote, which would fail to qualify for a run-off. Despite its moderate success compared with, for example, Western-Central European Greens, URA’s electoral strength makes Montenegro an EGP stronghold in Southeastern Europe.
Regional elections in Southern Europe will take place in Greece (all regions), Italy (Lazio, Lombardy, Trentino, South Tyrol), Portugal (Madeira) and Spain (Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile-La Mancha, Extremadura, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, Navarre, Valencia).
A force to be reckoned with: the Greens in Finland, Switzerland and Luxembourg
In Western, Central-Western and Northern Europe, the Greens are a force to be reckoned with, often ready to become part of government coalitions.
For example, on 2 April, voters will elect a new parliament in Finland. The EGP member Vihreät - De Gröna is currently part of a government coalition under centre-left Prime Minister and European Council member Sanna Marin, who has been leading her country toward NATO accession in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Vihreät - De Gröna achieved its best result in the 2019 national parliamentary election (11.5%) but is now polling slightly lower, at about 9.7%.
Switzerland will elect a new parliamentary lower and upper house on 22 October. In recent years, the Greens in the country have celebrated electoral success in several regional (canton) elections, for instance, in 2022 in Berne, Glarus and Vaud. In 2019, the party won its best national parliamentary result, with 13.2%. However, recent polls have put them slightly lower, averaging 11–12%. Some upper house parliamentary seats will also be determined in separate elections on 12 March, 30 April and potentially November (see the Europe Elects electoral calendar for more details). On 12 December, the newly elected chambers then vote for a new Federal Council, which serves as Switzerland’s collective head of state and government. The Federal Council composition has been based on the ‘magic formula’ (Zauberformel) since 1959, a convention that designates representation in the executive office to the Social Democrats, the national-conservative SVP, the liberal FDP and the centre-right Die Mitte — notably excluding the Greens.
Another Western European country with strong Green representation is Luxembourg, which will hold national parliamentary elections on 8 October 2023. Polls from November 2022 suggest that EGP member Déi Gréng will drop about three points below its 2018 result of 15.1%. However, it could still be the second strongest performance of the Greens in such an election. Déi Gréng is currently part of the government of liberal Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who also represents his country in the European Council.
In the fall of 2023, new parliaments will also be elected in the Finnish autonomous region Åland and the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. In Åland, the EGP member Hållbart initiativ won 8.3% of the vote and parliamentary representation for the first time in the last election. The EGP has no members in Gibraltar.
Indirect senate elections will be held in the Netherlands on 30 May and in France in September. Regional elections will take place in Austria (Carinthia, Lower Austria, Salzburg), Germany (Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hesse), the Netherlands (all regions), Norway (all regions), Switzerland (Appenzell Outer-Rhodes, Basle-Country, Geneva, Lucerne, Ticino, Zurich) and potentially the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland).
Eastern-Central Europe: bleak prospects
The Green parties face a challenging environment in Eastern Europe, where their institutional strength and access to resources are often marginal or non-existent. As this prevents the Greens from gaining parliamentary representation by themselves, they often join pre-election alliances — historically with unpredictable policy influence, as progressive and environmentalist forces often play a minor role in these ideologically diverse shotgun marriages. Transborder electoral support from stronger Green parties for their weaker partners in the East remains minimal, something that may need reconsideration ahead of the 2024 European election by the Green party family.
Czechia already went to the polls in the first days of 2023, with independent former army general Petr Pavel defeating controversial billionaire and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, in the Presidential election run-off on 27-28 January 2023.. The EGP member Zelení did not nominate a candidate but endorsed Petr Pavel for the second round. While Czech presidents have chosen a somewhat more activist role in politics in recent years, the position is formally ceremonial, and the Prime Minister represents the country in the European Council. Incumbent Miloš Zeman was not allowed to run again due to term limits.
Voters in Estonia elect a new parliament on 5 March, with the participation of Eestimaa Rohelised — an EGP member. However, the party has failed to overcome the five percent threshold since the 2007 election, and the Europe Elects polling average is not showing a change in fortunes, as Eestimaa Rohelised is polling at 1.7%.
Indirect presidential elections are set to be held in Latvia in May 2023. Here, EGP member Progresīvie was able to win parliamentary seats for the first time in an election in 2022, giving them the opportunity to nominate a presidential candidate. However, with only 10 out of 100 seats, a Progresīvie nominee will likely not play a dominant role in the vote.
The Polish EGP member Partia Zieloni currently has three out of 460 national Members of Parliament. Jakub Rogowiecki, Europe Elects’ correspondent for Poland, remarks: “In the last election and during the current legislative period, Zieloni cooperated in the Civic Coalition alliance, which includes the centre-right Civic Platform, the liberal ‘Modern’ party, and the centre-left ‘Polish Initiative’ party. We don’t have reason to believe this changes in the next election. However, it is too early to tell.” The Civic Coalition alliance is led by former President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and is currently polling at 30%. While this is still five points behind the ruling national-conservative PiS party, it is three points above the level of the 2019 election. Parliamentary elections should take place before 11 November 2023.
In addition, Bulgaria and Slovakia may hold a snap parliamentary election.
Greens and democracy under pressure: Turkey, Belarus and Ukraine
In Turkey, it is currently unclear if EGP member Yeşil Sol Parti will contest the national parliamentary election in 2023. However, if they decide to run candidates, they would likely compete in a multiparty alliance due to the seven percent electoral threshold, which makes it impossible for single minor parties, such as the Greens, to win seats. Besides, the political pressure on the opposition has been increasing over the past months in Turkey, including Yeşil Sol Parti and its partners. For example, on 23 December 2022, Yeşil Sol Parti published a communiqué demanding the release of imprisoned opposition politician Keskin Bayındır, whose Democratic Regions Party is allied with the Greens. The parliamentary elections in the country are set to be held in parallel with the direct presidential elections in the summer. However, representatives of President Erdoğan’s AKP party have threatened to hold snap elections prematurely amidst polls suggesting that the incumbent ruling bloc may lose the presidency and parliamentary majority.
In Ukraine, it is currently unclear if the 2023 national parliamentary election can be held due to Russia’s invasion of the country. Besides, it is uncertain if Partija Zelenykh Ukrainy would be able to participate or make notable gains. Until today, the party only won parliamentary representation in the country in 2002. In 2019, the party won only 0.7%, and as of January 2023, the party’s website is unavailable.
It is equally unclear if Belarus’ EGP member Bielaruskaja Partyja “Zialonye” will participate in the 2023 national parliamentary election, which is likely to be held in the fall. It is important to note that elections in Belarus are neither free nor fair and that the country could be pressured into the war in Ukraine by Russia, which could delay a (scam) election. As long as the regime of dictator Alexander Lukashenko prevails, it is highly unlikely that the Greens will make any meaningful gains.
Regional elections will be held in Russia (Khakassia, Yakutia, Altai Krai, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Primorsky Krai, Amur Oblast, Ivanovo Oblast, Kemerovo Oblast, Magadan Oblast, Moscow Oblast, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Novosibirsk Oblast, Omsk Oblast, Oryol Oblast, Pskov Oblast, Samara Oblast, Tyumen Oblast, Voronezh Oblast, Moscow and Chukotka AO). Elections in Russia, including regional ones, are neither free nor fair.
The dates of the listed regional elections and numerous local elections are listed on Europe Elects’ electoral calendar.