Monday, September 30, 2013

Austrian coalition re-elected but feels the chill blast of unpopularity

It would appear that the general dissatisfaction with politicians and, in more general terms, the post Second World War settlement, is permeating Austria as well, though not for the first time. The grand coalition that has governed the country more or less continuously in the last five decades has been re-elected but with a combined vote of just 50.9 per cent of the vote, their worst result since the setting up of the Austrian republic after the war.
Meanwhile, populist anti-EU parties have grown to a combined 27 percent in a country where people can vote from the age of 16 and stand as candidates once they are 18.

The anti-euro, anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO) scored its best result since 1999, with 21.4 percent of the vote, under the leadership of 44-year old Heinz-Christian Strache, whom supporters call "HC."
Other small parties have done reasonably well.
But a new populist party led by 81-year old businessman Frank Stronach managed to enter with 5.8 percent of the vote. "Team Stronach" campaigned on splitting the euro along national lines, "because a German or Austrian euro is worth more than a Greek one" and having the death penalty reintroduced for "professional hit men."

Another newcomer to the Austrian parliament is the liberal Neos party, which scored 4.8 percent of the vote - over the four-percent threshold to make it into the legislature. The Greens are also represented in the parliament, having garnered 11.5 percent of the vote.
EurActiv reports:
Chancellor Werner Faymann's Social Democrats (SPO) offered talks with their conservative People's Party (OVP) allies to ensure that the two parties that have dominated post-war politics stay in power.

But conservative leader Michael Spindelegger was keeping his options open after both parties emerged bruised from their worst electoral showings since World War Two, together winning just 50.9% of the vote. Both men said there could be no return to business as usual in the face of dwindling support that left the Eurosceptic and anti-Islam Freedom Party (FPO) breathing down their necks.

The victory, albeit slim, bucks a trend of EU voters throwing out governments over unpopular austerity steps imposed to calm investors since the financial crisis erupted in 2008. The coalition parties in Vienna have so far avoided major structural reforms in favour of minor policy adjustments, eager not to stall the export-driven economy.

But the two big parties, already at loggerheads over tax, education and other important policy issues, need to bridge fundamental differences if they want to present a new agenda that will convince voters Austria is moving confidently ahead.
The next few months could be interesting in Austrian politics.

1 comment:

  1. Team S. is interesting -a 25% flat rate income tax, and an end to conscription.