On Sunday (6 May), the French will elect a new president, the Greeks will hold general elections, and EU hopeful Serbia will designate their new president, Parliament and local authorities. The stakes appear high not only for the individual countries concerned but also for Europe as a whole.
France: A pre-announced winner?
In France, outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing likely defeat against Socialist contender François Hollande, who has a comfortable lead of at least five percentage points in several opinion polls.
A debate between the two contenders on Wednesday night, watched live by more than a third of the electorate, was seen as a last chance for Sarkozy to woo voters.
But unlike 2007 when Sarkozy crushed the then Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal, Hollande appeared more convincing and self-assured than the outgoing president. Royal was the then partner of François Hollande, with whom they have four children.
Sarkozy's position was further weakened yesterday (3 May) when François Bayrou, the only centrist candidate, gave his personal support to Hollande, blasting Sarkozy for his drift toward the extreme right.
"The line Nicolas Sarkozy has chosen between the two [election] rounds is violent. It contradicts our values," said Bayrou, who obtained 9% in the first round on 22 April.
But Hollande himself warned that nothing was over until 8 PM on Sunday, when the first results will be announced. Indeed, a de-mobilisation of the electorate when the winner appears as pre-announced, is not to be excluded.
The probable victory for Hollande is seen as a potential game-changer for Europe. If he wins, France will push harder for growth-enhancing measures alongside fiscal discipline as a way to tackle the eurozone's ongoing debt crisis.
For Germany, he will certainly prove a more difficult partner. “The Franco-German axis will continue, but a Hollande victory in particular will mean a more unpredictable relationship and therefore potentially more uncertainty on the markets," says Vincenzo Scarpetta, an analyst with the Open Europe eurosceptic think-tank.
"Clearly, under Hollande, Germany will find it far more difficult to push its vision of a eurozone based on strong budget discipline.”
But Hollande will also need to concentrate on purely national issues, with legislative elections to be held on 10 and 17 June. Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National (FN), obtained almost 18% of votes in the first round, the highest result ever for this party created by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen back in 1972.
Marine Le Pen said she was counting on the "implosion" of Sarkozy's "Union pour un Mouvement Populaire" (UMP) to achieve a breakthrough in Parliament. The FN has so far been prevented from obtaining any seats in Parliament, largely due the non-proportional electoral system and to arrangements between the moderate right and left parties.
Read the European profiles of each candidates below:
Greece: Mainstream parties to be punished?
On 6 May, Greeks will vote in early parliamentary elections against the background of the worst crisis to hit the country in decades.
Opinion polls show no clear winner emerging from the vote, with the two main parties – the centre-right New Democracy and the centre-left PASOK together garnering around 38% of the votes, making a parliamentary majority unlikely.
Smaller parties are attracting voters in large numbers for the first time, polls show. They include the Coalition of the Radical Left, the Communist Party, the Democratic Left, the rightist Independent Greeks, the far-right People's Orthodox Rally and – for the first time in Greece's post-war history – the extreme far-right 'Golden Dawn', imbued with fascist ideology.
Many Greeks, angered by the collapse of their living standards, could be tempted to cast a punitive ballot in favour of anti-austerity parties.
It is difficult to forecast what government could emerge after the vote. However, it cannot be excluded that sufficient political forces will gather to form a government that will push Greece to default on its debt, leading the country to leave the eurozone.
Serbia: A referendum on Europe?
On Sunday, May 6, Serbia will see "three-in-one" joint parliamentary, presidential and local elections. Serbia's gamble lies in confirming the country's current pro-European leadership, or handing power to the Serbian Progressive Party, whose commitment to European integration has yet to be confirmed.
The Progressives formed after splitting from the nationalist Serbian Radical Party, whose leader Vojislav Šešelj is being prosecuted by the International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes in the 1990s. After the 2008 split, the Progressives embraced pro-European positions, while the Radicals, once the main opposition party, remained loyal to their nationalist roots and are now marginalised.
According to polls, the Serbian Democratic Party may have less support than the Progressives at the parliamentary elections. However, the Democrats have stronger chances of forming a government due to their ability to find coalition partners. When it comes to the presidential election, current President Boris Tadi?, could face a run-off with the leader of the Progressives Tomislav Nikoli?.
The Democratic Party will run on a combined ticket with the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina and the Social Democrats, two smaller parties.
The Serbian Socialist Party, which ruled Serbia in the 1990s and reformed afterwards, will play a crucial role, as both Democrats and Progressives will need their 13.3% of votes to form a government.
The Socialists are currently in a coalition with the Democratic Party. However, they do not exclude the possibility of entering a coalition with the Progressives. The Socialists are running on a joint ticket with the Party of United Pensioners of Serbia and the United Serbia Party.
The Progressive Party is running jointly with three smaller parties, including a group led by businessmen that emerged in the 1990s and fled Serbia due to fraud – Bogoljub Kari?, former Infrastructure Minister Velimir Ili?'s Nova Srbija, and the Movement of Socialists led by Aleksandar Vulin.
Other parties running in opposition are the Serbian Radical Party, which would take 5.5%, while the Democratic Party of Serbia had 5.7%, according to a recent poll.
Tadi? recently said the 6 May elections would be a kind of referendum on Serbia’s future path.
"There is no guarantee which way Serbia would go if a coalition between [Serbian Progressive Party leader Tomislav] Nikoli?, [Strength of Serbia Movement leader] Bogoljub Kari? and [New Serbia leader] Velja Ili? won," Tadi? warned.