Six things I learned in 2016


Here is a selection of comments I wrote in 2016 on events that shaped the region.

  1. If it can happen, it might…

Two votes this year were the reminders that one should always have a “Plan B”, as the obvious, the expected, outcome is not always the one to come true.

Both the vote for Brexit and the electoral victory of Trump have, mostly still unknown consequences I have speculated about in a few comments on Trumping the Balkans, Ever Farther Union: Balkans and the Brexit and Western Balkans after the Brexit Vote. Russia’s Gain Europe’s Loss

2. … but just because can, it doesn’t have to.

Two rounds of vote for the presidential elections in Austria showed that even amidst the tide of populism their success is not inevitable.

After the first defeat of the far-right candidate Hofer, I reflected on how despite his defeat the far right still remains a formidable force and gaining nearly 50% showed the potential for the far right in For Austria’s Far Right, a Way to Find Victory in Defeat.

After the second defeat of Hofer in December, I argued that there are lessons to be learned from the defeat for challenging other populists in The Far Right Suffer a Defeat in Austria. What Can We Learn?

3. The Challenge to the Status Quo Remain Considerable

The votes in the USA, UK, and the narrow defeat in Austria are all part of a larger challenge to liberal democracy, as I suggest in European Challenge to Liberal Democracy. The challenge also extends the Balkans where the European far right is open to undermining the status quo.

4. Some elections are unnecessary…

Among the elections in Balkans this year, some were completely necessary: Another Unnecessary Election in Serbia. The early parliamentary elections were just another step in the erosion of democracy.

5. …others are inevitable,

Montenegrin elections were less unexpected, yet its result did little change the established power-structures. Here, the paradox is that the authoritarian status quo enjoys Western support: Paradox of Western Support for Montenegro’s ‘Godfather’

6. …and some are important.

Macedonia’s elections were another early elections. After the wiretapping scandal, the election became a test case on the ability of authoritarian rule to retain power in the Balkans, as I have argued in Macedonia’s Election Risks Emboldening Other Strongmen

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