Right-wing conservatives and the far right win big in Austria’s snap national election

15 10 17

From Martin Jordan in Vienna

 Right-wing conservatives and the far right win big in Austria’s snap national election  

The revamped conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) has won the Austrian national election with 31.7% (+7.7%), ahead of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, SPÖ, with 26.9% (±0%), and the far right Freedom Party (FPÖ) with 26% (+5.5%).

Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old political shooting star and new leader of the ÖVP has done what nobody would have thought is possible half a year ago.

He has not only reinvented his party but also managed to make people believe in his “new way” and carried through an exceptionally successful election campaign. To become the youngest leader of any country in Europe.

He and, once again, the ÖVP have become number one in Austria, despite a party programme that relies on catchy headlines but lacks content.

Nonetheless, Kurz deserves respect for this feat of realising a success beyond expectations with a party that was already declared dead by many.

He achieved this start-to-finish victory through minute preparation and consistent implementation of his plan that was sketched out on the political drawing board by him and his personal aides.

Respect is due also to Christian Kern, current Chancellor of Austria and leader of the SPÖ, who, despite plummeting poll numbers and a dirty-campaigning-scandal that badly affected his party, kept campaigning hard until the very end and managed to achieve a much better result than was projected by the polls (and expected by his own party).

What helped him mobilise the necessary votes to stay relevant was the threatening prospect of yet another ÖVP-FPÖ coalition. Also, while Kern was still energetically fighting the election campaign, many SPÖ members seemingly had already had thrown in the towel and names of possible successors to him were being circulated before Election Day.

There is no question that the SPÖ needs a complete respray to be able to stay relevant in future elections but it is to be doubted and questioned whether Kern will be the one leading this effort.

The FPÖ had the easiest task with its leader Heinz-Christian Strache. Not only was the election dominated by one single big issue – migration, the main one since 2015 ongoing refugee crisis – but the fierce fighting between the two coalition partners ÖVP and SPÖ, catapulted the FPÖ to a success that drew it level with its best ever result in the 1999 national election under the leadership of the notorious Jörg Haider. Then, the FPÖ became the coalition partner of the ÖVP in a move that resulted in an international outcry and EU sanctions against Austria.

Such an unholy alliance again looms on the horizon since a remake of the ÖVP-SPÖ pact would most likely be political suicide for both parties and there are no other formations possible to produce a parliamentary majority.

Figures as at 20.15 CET and before postal votes tally counted.


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