Hope you enjoy these images from the pond:
Two every different views of the state of the Parties in Austria have been published in the last twenty-four hours.
Exhibit one is the Karmasin/profil poll published yesterday. Very much in line with other surveys since the Salzburg State election, showing the Greens (left-centre) on the rise, the SPÖ (Social Democrats) declining, ÖVP (conservatives) slightly up, FPÖ (Far-Right) slipping a little further. The only difference to other polls being the better figure given to Team Stronach (Right-populist):
SPÖ 26%, ÖVP 25%, FPÖ 18%, Greens 16%, Team Stronach: 10%, BZÖ 2%, (16th May 2013: Karmasin/profil)
Now exhibit two, the IMAS/Krone poll published today. This suggests a complete reversal of fortune for the ruling Grand Coalition with both the SPÖ and ÖVP just below the 30% mark, as well as for the Greens who appear to have fallen back significantly. The FPÖ figure remains consistent with other polls and the Team Stronach figure is at the low end of the current crop of surveys:
SPÖ 28-30%, ÖVP 27-29%, FPÖ 18-20%, Greens 11-13%, Team Stronach: 6-8%, BZÖ 2-4%, Others 1-3% (17th May 2013: IMAS/Krone)
As Austrian polls generally have a fairly wide variable range I tend to avoid commenting on individual surveys, instead focusing upon the running average figure across the most recent five polls and looking at the underlying trends. But the IMAS poll is of note because it’s significantly out of line with other recent polls which have shown every similar figures and trends. It seems like a rogue poll but I’m going to look a little further at it when I can track down the full available data.
In the next week or two we will see whether IMAS have picked up on the start of a new trend or whether their survey is a blip in the ongoing story recorded by the other polls – a Green advance, the Coalition battling each other to be first with less than 25% of the vote, and the decline of the Far-Right. There is a third possibility with would be a true nightmare for all the party strategists, the electorate really has become extremely volatile – an argument that has some credence given the results in the four recent State elections.
Current national average ratings based upon last five polls:
SPÖ: 26.8%, ÖVP: 25.2%, FPÖ 18.8%, Greens 14.6%, Team Stronach: 8.8%, BZÖ 2.2.%, Others 3.6%
Or to put it another way, a lot of Austrian voters seem to think its desirable to have many small parties in the next Parliament. According to research carried out for der Standard newspaper, 47% of those surveyed believed that parliament would be more representative with many small parties representing diverse opinion.
Almost as many, 43%, believe that fewer parties in parliament would be better. Currently, there are six parties represented in the Austrian parliament. Five of which are expected to secure seats at the election in September. The sixth, the BZÖ, has been averaging 2% or lower in the polls for over a year and a party needs to reach the 4% threshold to enter parliament.
To me this research provides further evidence that voters are not only frustrated with the current options but also more inclined to think in terms of party programme combined with who that party would be most like to join with in forming a coalition. Polling data from the recent four State elections would appear to support the idea of a more selective electorate influenced by perceived party competence, programme relevance, and potential coalitions. Interestingly, we now have 3 way coalitions at State level for the first time and Austria’s (current) fourth largest party the Greens, look set to increase its involvement in State government to five out of nine States, if discussions go as forecast.
For new parties outside parliament such as NEOS and the Austrian Pirates, both of whom are currently under the 4% threshold, these developments will increase their expectations and strength of arguments in the run-up to the General Election in September. For the new grouping in the current parliament, the party of billionaire Austro-Canadian businessman Frank Stronach, Team Stronach, these finds may explain why the party is stuck below 10% in the polls despite disproportionate press coverage and multi-million Euro funding. A vague populist platform, internal party strife, and reluctance to engage in a future coalition, are going to limit your reach and limit you to a battle with the FPÖ for a shrinking pool of voters.
As for the big battalions they will need to balance the ‘big party stability’ argument with a greater willingness to talk about different coalition options. For the SPÖ and ÖVP this will mean a stand up fight for who will be the largest party, while talking up the benefits of the Grand Coalition stability, and at the same time being more willing to talk about alternative coalition combinations greater than two. The latter they seem to be increasingly doing in the aftermath of the four State elections earlier this year.
The headline is a partial quote from a somewhat famous Frenchman. I’m a bit of a fan of Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Shape’ novels and have always like this extract from ‘Shape’s Enemy’:
Richard Sharpe: No wonder Harris reads Voltaire. Listen: Dieu ne pas pour le gros battalions, mais pour sequi teront le meileur.
Teresa: God is not on the side of the big battalions, but the best shots.
Richard Sharpe: Not bad for a Frog, eh?
The use of the Rifle as a skirmishers weapon (Napoleon preferred his skirmishers to use traditional muskets) by the British and the subsequent development in the use of Rifle Regiments was an example of technology and flexible thinking changing the established norms for campaigning – in this instance the Napoleonic Wars.
A much more peaceful question is which of the small parties have the potential to be the ‘Riflemen’ at the coming election – able to respond coherently to a fragmenting, sceptical, electorate; and adaptable to the changing campaigning environment in which new networks may be as important as traditional associations in engaging and motivating support? Or are any of the ‘big battalion’ parties able to develop their own ‘Riflemen’ capable of creating new electoral constituencies and once more build a broad electoral base? Voters are more volatile than ever, willing to consider other option or simply stay at home. When the dust settles after Election Day it will be the new ‘best shots’ and not the big battalions who will have, I suspect, ‘won the day’.
Much to my surprise a blog post of mine from the future popped up in my electronic mail box. As it describes the results of this coming September’s Austrian General Election I thought it might be helpful to share it now.
Electorate votes for change
Pollsters had been warning in the months leading up to the General Election that below the headline figures there were record levels of ‘churn’ between the Parties. The electorate were said to be more volatile than at any time in the Second Republics history, the Parties could not take support for granted, and there were significant shift taking place amongst urban younger voters. They had also noted that the number of people with an optimist view of the future far outweighed those who thought Austria was in decline.
So whilst the poll may have been wide of the make in predicting this weeks’ General Election result they were right about the causes of the biggest shake-up in Austrian politics.
Looking at the exit poll data it seems clear that things could have been worst for the outgoing Grand Coalition SPÖ/ÖVP but for the strength of their respective party machines in being able to ‘get their vote out’. While both lost support to other parties their percentage of previous supporters staying at home was relatively low. One additional positive note for the coalition parties was that both had some success in attracting voters away from the FPÖ but these gains were not enough to offset defections to other challengers.
The Greens will be particularly pleased that while making gains in the urban areas they also made small inroads into the rural/urban fringe. Their success in taking votes from both the (conservative) ÖVP and (Social Democrat) SPÖ would have produced an even better result but for the fact that many of their liberal supporters switch to either NEOS or the Pirates.
Scandals, infighting and a negative message seem to have accounted for the poor performances of the three Parties of the Far-Right/Populist-Right.
Despite the millions of Euros spent since the launch of Team Stronach back in September 2012, the Party just wasn’t able to stretch its appeal beyond the protest vote – support coming primarily form previous non-voters and former BZÖ voters.
The FPÖ story at this general election remained the same as that at the early State elections. Former older votes primarily staying at home or switching to SPÖ or ÖVP, younger voters turned decisively to the Greens and new parties.
One prediction the polls got right was the collapse of the BZÖ. Like many of their MP’s, voters primarily switched allegiance to Team Stronach.
By building a broad Liberal Centrist base the new party NEOS has been one of the big success stories of the election campaign. By using social media and building strong networks the Party has been able to attract primarily urban votes from the ÖVP, Greens and to a lesser extent the SPÖ. With a tiny budget but a committed membership they have been able to achieve the same result as the multi-million euro campaign of Team Stronach.
Finally and much to many people surprise, especially after the poor showing of their sister party in Germany, the Austrian Pirate Party gained enough support to secure seats in the national Parliament.
Austrian General Election Result (September 2013)
An interesting set of results but whether this blog post is from our reality or one of the many alternatives we will have to wait until the 29th September 2013 to find out
The first two polls since the SPÖ (Social Democrats) took a hammering in the Salzburg State election show the party losing ground, though they retain first spot in the national polls. Worryingly for the Party, in general election year, this seems to be part of a downward trend. Over the last year or more, each time they have a noticeable drop in the polls they recover but their new average high is lower than before.
Things are a little better for the other half of Austria’s ruling grand Coalition, the ÖVP (conservatives), whose poll ratings remain steady. They topped the polls in three of the four State elections this year but lost more votes than any other party when compared to the previous the elections – new record lows in their wins in Tirol and Salzburg. The positive news for the Party is that polling data shows that those currently supporting the ÖVP are some of the most motivated of the electorate.
The two latest polls below show a small surge for the Greens (centre-left) who have recently been flat-lining in the national opinion polls at 13%. If these results are repeated in further polls then the Greens will make an important breakthrough, moving their average figure above 15%. However, their current average rating shows them only having recovered to the level they achieved at the beginning of January this year.
In both the national opinion polls and State elections it’s been a bad year so far for the (Far-Right) FPÖ. They will be relieved to see that their poll ratings have not dropped any further (down 7.6% points since January 2012).
The party of billionaire Austro-Canadian businessman Frank Stronach, Team Stronach (Populist-Right), have had a mixed time in the State elections and their current average poll rating is down 1.2% compared with January and down 1.6% in comparison to the 11% in the polls when the Party was founded last September. Given the millions spent by Frank already he can’t be happy with the current rate of return on his investment.
SPÖ 25%, ÖVP 24%, FPÖ 19%, Greens 16%, Team Stronach: 10%, BZÖ 2%, Pirates 2% (10th May 2013: Market/derstandard)
SPÖ 26%, ÖVP 25%, FPÖ 19%, Greens 15%, Team Stronach: 9%, BZÖ 2%, KPÖ 1%, Pirates 1% (9th May 2013; Gallup/Österreich)
Current national average ratings based upon last five polls:
SPÖ: 26.8%, ÖVP: 24.6%, FPÖ 19.0%, Greens 14.2%, Team Stronach: 9.4%, BZÖ 1.8.0%, Others 4.2%
Percentage variation across last five polls:
SPÖ: 25%-28%, ÖVP: 24%-25%, FPÖ 19%, Greens 13%-16%, Team Stronach: 8%-10%, BZÖ 1%-2%
Well I’ve seen a few strange sights and experienced some unusual events watching football over the years but a pitch invasion by camels and lamas was a first for me.
H had finished her game for the First Vienna FC U11 Girls and had asked if we could stay on to watch the U15 Girls match as one of her friends was playing. The early part of the game saw Vienna take the lead and the main point of note, other than the quality of the football, was a friendly exchange of views between the referee and one of the parents over a contentious decision. The sun was shining, the game was in full flow, and life was unfolding at First Vienna’s youth training centre as normal last Sunday morning. Then we heard a crash….
Over beyond the right hand goal a temporary paddock had been placed to allow camels and lamas from the travelling circus to graze. As we looked across we saw one of the more determined camels give a second push to the rapidly collapsing fence. This Houdini of the camel world showed no interest in the game of football being played but instead turned its attention to the lush grass before it.
Even as our escape artist was joined by fellow camels and a number of lamas the game continued. We spectators were laughing and joking at the sight before for us and naturally people were reaching for cameras and camera phones. Someone was sent to rouse the circus folk and as more animals joined the initial breakout the referee was finally forced to call a temporary halt to the game.
By the time the animal’s keepers had arrived a number of the lamas had followed Houdini along the grass edge of the pitch and towards further grazing near the main builds. Suddenly the rest of the herd took off a speed to join them, chased by their circus guardians.
Suddenly the initial shock and humour of the crowd of parents changed to concern as the whole herd began to move back towards the pitch. We parents had been watching the game from the top of a slope adjacent to the pitch and were know shouting to the youngsters to join us on the safer high ground. As calm returned we all watched as keepers chased the animal around the pitch before successfully returning them to the paddock.
The referee called the players back on the pitch and resumed the game. Over to our right a group of well exercised camels and lamas were being guided from their paddock into the big top.
The provision results for Salzburg State give the Greens an election night to remember, their 19.9% is higher than any of the opinion poll predictions. Those same polls failed to anticipate the scale of the SPÖ crash.
The figures at the time of writing are:
ÖVP 29.2% (-7.3%), SPÖ 23.6 (-15.8%), Greens 19.9% (+12.5%), FPÖ 17.3% (+4.3), Team Stronach 8.4% (+8.4%)
So what does this mean for the Parties?
It’s extremely good news for the Greens. They are now the third largest party in the State, have advanced in all four of this year’s State elections, and have in Salzburg exceeded their current national polling average figure.
As the lead partner in the outgoing State government the SPÖ were always likely to suffer at the ballot box, but the polls had suggested that they would secure something in the high 20’s. This is a bad night for the Social Democrats but it’s also marks three out of four State elections where the Party has lost support – the exception being the big win in Kärnten.
The Far-Right FPÖ have seen their vote go up this evening, on the face of it they too are winners. However, a year ago this result would have looked poor as they would have expected to scoop up the votes wanting to punish the SPÖ and ÖVP for the financial scandal. Tonight is the first of the four State elections this year in which their vote hasn’t dropped is the only real comfort for a party that is now only the fourth strongest in Salzburg and whose national support has tumbled in the 15 months.
Oddly, the ‘winner’ tonight doesn’t have that much to cheer about. The ÖVP may now be the largest party in the State but they lost 7.3% points from an already historic low. The Party has topped the poll in three out of four States this year but in all four elections its support has declined.
Finally, the party of Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach, ‘Team Stronach’, will be pleased to have secured seats in the parliament – something they failed to do last week in Tirol. However, in three State elections this new Right of Centre Populist party has failed to achieve the 10% it is currently recording as its national poll average. Frank may need a new business plan before the general election in September.
Current national average ratings based upon last five polls:
SPÖ: 27.2%, ÖVP: 24.6%, FPÖ 18.8%, Greens 13.6%, Team Stronach: 9.8%, BZÖ 2.0%, Others 4.0%
Percentage variation across last five polls:
SPÖ: 27%-28%, ÖVP: 24%-25%, FPÖ 18%-19%, Greens 13%-14%, Team Stronach: 9%-10%, BZÖ 1%-4%