Austrian politics are crazy – not in the colloquial sense, but in the ideological sense. Blue is capable of governing – as an anti-system party – because the system is already so off-putting that anything else is preferable. Crazy.
First, let’s look at what is happening abroad. In Spain, the anti-system Podemos party achieved impressive results in the regional elections. It has taken up a place in the town hall in particular in the major cities. Pablo Iglesias believes even now that he has already brought about change. The austerity policy (which in Spain, incidentally, is gaining traction slowly and experiencing slight growth) was Rajoy’s downfall.
Italy’s PM Matteo Renzi, as the top candidate, never had to face the Italian vote before. He too received a major blow at “his” regional elections. Voter turnout was much lower than even at the European elections, which created Renzi as the new style European social democrat. On this occasion, comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement and anti-establishment party was the second strongest party, with the Lega Nord as the supposed strongest conservative force in third place.
Anti-system in Austria
Austria is miles ahead of these developments, We have had an anti-system party in Austria for years – the FPÖ (the far-right Freedom Party of Austria). Support for the FPÖ is growing steadily at elections despite there being unsavoury excesses time and again in extreme right-wing fields. The tactics used by the two “major parties” to dissociate themselves as regards substance from the FPÖ do not seem to be winning recognition at elections. Why? Disappointment over the system is constantly growing. Not only past events such as the collapse of Hypo bank or the Eurofighter corruption case, but particularly current policy is seeing more and more voters vote anti-system rather than ideologically or because of a firm belief in the issues.
No action is being taken even though this situation has already been going on for some time in Austria. The political left is progressively disappearing, as the emancipation policy of the SPÖ (Social Democratic Party) has caused it to lose the worker as its traditional voter. The FPÖ calls itself the social homeland party. Semantically an expression which can be interpreted both nationally and socially. The SPÖ’s anti-fascist battle is reduced to absurdity with each nationwide government manoeuvre (tax reform) and thus taken to FPÖ voters.
nothing and right
While the left of the political spectrum is disappearing, six or rather five and a half parties are competing to win the support of its voters without success. This is because the FPÖ in particular represents issues which are not taboo topics for those who formerly voted for the SPÖ and ÖVP (the centre-right Austrian People’s Party). Or rather, because the SPÖ and ÖVP address many topics so half-heartedly that disenchantment can happen quickly. In the state of Burgenland, Niessl (SPÖ) is now forming a coalition with the FPÖ, and this is indeed very exciting, as it sets the SPÖ the major challenge of showing and defending its social democratic vision on key socio-political issues such as asylum policy. If things go smoothly, this could be a success for the SPÖ and only a brief interlude for the FPÖ. However, it could also uncover a great deal of hypocrisy, which rightly (sic) encourages the voters in their anti-system vote.
And almost incidentally, Team Stronach is disintegrating, in that two not entirely uncontroversial TS representatives are shifting to the ÖVP – according to reports, they will even be members of the parliament for the ÖVP Vienna. What will be interesting for the Vienna election: the ÖVP as a liberal party nationwide (although banking secrecy, the state security law and Data Preservation suggest otherwise) and at the same time almost a reactionary conservative party in Vienna.