Thursday, July 14, 2011

Austria, too

The great fear is on: the eurozones problems, we are told in order to "make our flesh creep" as the Fat Boy used to say in Pickwick Papers, might have the terrible effect of bringing populist, anti-bail-out, perhaps even eurosceptic parties to power. Forgive me for not fainting or reaching for the smelling salts. (Actually, I don't really like the smell of ammonia.) They were warned, they did not listen to the warning, now we all have to pay and if some people turn on them, well, they were warned about that as well.

It is Austria's turn to produce the flesh-creeping scenario. According to Der Spiegel,
Under its leader Heinz-Christian Strache, the right-wing populist Freedom Party has become a force to be reckoned with in Austrian politics. It is currently neck and neck with the country's two largest mainstream parties in the polls. Meanwhile the governing Social Democrats are struggling to reconnect with ordinary voters.
Ah yes, where have we heard that before? Or this?
Many important SPÖ [Socialist Democrat] figures -- including the new government spokesman, the chancellor's foreign policy adviser and the SPÖ leader on the powerful foundation board of the public broadcaster ORF -- are in their mid-20s or early 30s. They are alert, networked and determined to rescue the legacy of the deeply traditional Austrian workers' movement by bringing it into the age of information technology.

After work, the young Austrian leftists head for the hip section at the back of Vienna's famous Naschmarkt market or the Procacci Restaurant near St. Stephan's Cathedral, where diners pay €26.50 ($37) for linguini with crawfish and are relatively safe from Strache's down-to-earth followers.
So the people are not happy? Well, let them eat linguini though they probably prefer Wiener Schnitzel mit Erdäpfelsalad and who can blame them.

The point is that the old Austrian problem - politics, media and other public offices divided up between two parties proportionately is beginning to annoy the people of that country again. This time round they have something else to complain about.
Polls now place Strache's FPÖ consistently neck and neck with the two "old parties," and in May it was even the top choice among voters. Strache is already telling people that if he comes into power, the country will no longer pay a cent for "bankrupt EU countries like Greece" because, for someone like him, "the red, white and red shirt" -- a reference to the colors of the Austrian flag -- "is tighter than the Brussels straitjacket."
Of this article is at all accurate, Herr Strache is not a particularly charismatic and impressive figure and the party has few coherent policies. Of course, the article might not be accurate. But even if it is, that is not the point, which, to be fair, the author makes clear. The FPÖ is not winning so much as the others are losing, caught in the headlights of their out-dated political consensus.

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