Monthly Archives: September 2012

Going on the attack whilst defending on the back foot can be tricky: SPÖ vs Team Stronach

An interesting interview here  (in German but Google translate works quite well on this article) in Die Presse with SPÖ Federal Manager Laura Rudas.

The interview sees the opening line of attack on Team Stronach from the SPÖ: ‘Stronach protects the rich and represents a backward-looking policy on Europe.’ It’s noticeable that she also suggests that as there is ‘no common ground’ a coalition including the SPÖ and Team Stronach is not on the agenda, though I don’t think that door is completely closed as Rudas only explicitly rules out entering a future coalition with the Far-Right FPÖ.

While Team Stronach’s main impact has been to take votes from the Far-Right this new Party could also do damage to the SPÖ’s share of the vote, particularly if Stronach (an Austro-Canadian billionaire) is able to successfully pitch the twin lines of representing ‘ordinary working people’ and being an anti-corruption/clean hands.

On the question of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee and the (non)appearance of Werner Faymann, the Austrian Chancellor and SPÖ leader, to answer questions on the alleged advertising scandal Rudas defence did not come over well to this particular (neutral) reader. This issue has already cost them support in the opinion polls and with both the Greens, as well as Team Stronach, able to make a clean hands appeal the SPÖ needs to resolve their position quickly.

On a side note, I rather like one of the Green Party’s current campaign posters which has the slogan ‘100% Bio, 0% Corrupt’. A clear, strong, and simply put message summing up two ideas they want to hammer home.

Returning to the subject of the future composition of the Austrian government, for Laura Rudas the options for coalition after next year’s general election are Red/Green (SPÖ & Greens) or Red/Black (the current Grand Coalition of SPÖ and the conservative ÖVP). For more on the current state of the parties in the opinion polls and future coalitions here’s a more detailed blog post I produced earlier this week.

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As Team Stronach takes to the pitch and Far-Right head for relegation

Frank Stronach, the Austro-Canadian billionaire and wan-a-be Chancellor of Austria, formally launched his new Party yesterday. With due modesty, Frank has named his Party ‘Team Stronach for Austria’. He declared at a packed press event that the Party’s launch will become a significant date in Austrian and by the way world history too.

Now the reference to world history and the name ‘Team Stronach for….’ did leave me wondering for a moment whether this is the start of a franchise operation? Frank is a very successful businessperson whose main abode still seems to be in Canada and who has interests in many countries. Could we in the future see Team Stronach for….Canada….Switzerland….UK…USA…or..(fill in the blank)?

Love him or loathe him, Frank Stronach is already making an impact. Polls indicate that up to 40% of voters would like to see him involved in the next government. Around 30% say that they would consider voting for his Party. While ‘Team Stronach’ seem to have the potential to scoop up the majority of the large numbers of ‘Other’ in the opinion polls they also look most likely to damage the poll ratings of the Far-Right FPÖ – whose support has been falling already due to scandals.

Two opinion polls yesterday showed support for the Far-Right FPÖ at below 20% and they must be concerned that Team Stronach may well overtake them in the coming months.

If you are interested in the potential impact of Team Stronach and the current developments in the polls, I wrote an analysis of current trends and their impact on the future shape of the government after next year’s general election here.

Below are updated polling data.

Average ratings across five recent opinion polls including Stronach Party

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 27.00% 29.3% -2.30%
OVP 22.20% 26% -3.80%
FPO 20.00% 17.5% 2.50%
Greens 13.60% 10.4% 3.20%
BZO 3.00% 10.7% -7.70%
Stronach 11.00% 0.0% 11.00%
Others 4.00% 6.1% -2.10%

Average ratings across five most recent recent opinion polls – change compared to January 2012

Polls Av Now Jan-12 Change
SPO 27.00% 28.60% -1.60%
OVP 22.60% 23.80% -1.20%
FPO 20.60% 26.60% -6.00%
Greens 13.20% 13.60% -0.40%
BZO 3.00% 4.80% -1.80%
Others 13.60% 2.60% 11.00%

Average ratings across five most recent recent opinion polls – change compared to General Election 2008

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 27.00% 29.3% -2.30%
OVP 22.60% 26% -3.40%
FPO 20.60% 17.5% 3.10%
Greens 13.20% 10.4% 2.80%
BZO 3.00% 10.7% -7.70%
Others 13.60% 6.1% 7.50%
Note 1: Pirates only appeared separately in Gallup polls
Note 2: Pirates/Stronach incorporated into Others in above table until they appear in all polls
Pirates 3.00% 0.0% 3.00%
Stronach 11.00% 0.0% 11.00%
Sources: Hajek/ATV 27-09-12
IMAS/Krone 27-09-12
Gallup/oe24 23-09-12
Karmasin/profil 22-09-12
OMG/Kurier 16-09-12

Change in support across the political spectrum since last election:

Polls GE 2008 Change
Far-Right FPO/BZO 23.00% 28.20% -5.20%
Right FPO/BZO/OVP/TS 56.20% 54.20% 2.00%
Centre-Right OVP/TS 33.20% 26.00% 7.20%
Coalition SPO/OVP 49.20% 55.30% -6.10%
Centre-Left SPO/Green 40.60% 39.70% 0.90%

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Vienna youth dump Far-Right

An interesting survey here in the Kurier yesterday (25-09-12) which suggests that support for the far-Right FPÖ amongst Vienna’s younger votes (16yrs-19yrs) has crashed.

The poll has bad news for both the FPÖ and the SPÖ (Social Democrats). The FPÖ support has dropped from 23% to 9%, while the SPÖ (who are the senior partners in the Vienna State government) have seen their support fall from 36% to 24%. The city governments’ junior partner the Greens are now the most popular party amongst young people with an increase in support from 24% to 26%.

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A year from now a new coalition government will begin to form

Now the final lap beginnings, a year from now the leaders of the Parties will have line-up on TV to hear the formal declaration of the Austrian general election result. A few days later the votes of citizens living overseas will have been added and the final tally of seats confirmed for the new Parliament. (Unless of course the governing coalition decides to divorce, a course of action which is in neither parties interest as they have potential more to gain by sticking it out).

I expect to be blogging this time next year about how the election campaign went for each of the parties and anticipating the final outcome of the on-going negotiations to form a new governing coalition. With a few exceptions the election result in Austria, since the war, has been about determining the relative strength of the two main parties within a Grand Coalition government. So set is this pattern that certain ministries are effectively Black (ÖVP – conservative) or Red (SPÖ – Social Democrats), whilst the post of Chancellor (equivalent of British Prime Minister) and control of some ministries is determined by the election result.

As we go into this election campaign year it looks increasingly likely that the next government will be formed by at least three parties. My running average of the last five polls (see table 1) has the SPÖ/ ÖVP governing coalition with just 50% of the vote between them and both parties share of the vote down since January 2012. The picture is just as bad for the two Far-Right parties FPÖ and BZÖ which have both seen their poll rating drop over the same period. The big winners have been ‘Others’ with, in particular, ‘Team Stronach’ (who formally launch later this week) attracting voters (see table 2).

Table 1: Average of last five polls & change since January 2012

Polls Av Now Jan-12 Change
SPO 27.60% 28.60% -1.00%
OVP 22.40% 23.80% -1.40%
FPO 21.00% 26.60% -5.60%
Greens 13.60% 13.60% 0.00%
BZO 2.40% 4.80% -2.40%
Others 13.00% 2.60% 10.40%
Sources: Gallup/oe24 23-09-12
Karmasin/profil 22-09-12
OMG/Kurier 16-09-12
Gallup 09-09-12
Gallup 01-09-12


Table 2: Average ratings across five recent opinion polls including ‘Team Stronach’ Party

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 28.00% 29.3% -1.30%
OVP 22.20% 26% -3.80%
FPO 20.60% 17.5% 3.10%
Greens 14.20% 10.4% 3.80%
BZO 2.20% 10.7% -8.50%
Stronach 8.80% 0.0% 8.80%
Others 4.00% 6.1% -2.10%

In the last year the story of the polls has changed. We’ve had the challenge of the FPÖ and the decline/collapse of the ÖVP – linked in particular to historical issues of corruption. We’ve had the FPÖ, extremism, corruption and the softness of their vote. We’ve had the potential for new parties (20% want new party when asked). Now we have the arrival of new parties and the corruption questions facing the old parties (excluding the Greens – current slogan ‘100% Bio, 0% Corrupt’).

When politics here is not dominated by events in the parliamentary committee investigating corruption, the other game for politicians is who will be my partner(s) in a future coalition. Here are the mostly likely combinations and their problems:


Potential: Despite being a coalition of left & right this is also the ‘traditional’ combination which knows how to function together and can balance the demands of urban (SPÖ) & rural voters (ÖVP) respectively.

Negatives: Falling out of love with each other. Majority of voters want to see them work more effectively together but a feeling exists that they can’t move the country forward together. Their core vested interests make tackling some of the big issues difficult if not impossible.


Potential: Although a lot of dislike between party activists, the experience of working together in the governing Vienna State coalition has been seen by many as a success that could be repeated at national level. Talk of such a coalition seems to have contributed to the Greens maintaining/improving their poll ratings.

Negatives: Most importantly the polls show no evidence of this alliance gaining a majority in the next parliament. Potential advance of the Greens would be at the expense of SPÖ/ÖVP votes which makes them a threat as well as a potential partner. While both SPÖ & Greens are ‘left of centre’ there are real political and cultural differences that could undermine a potential/actual coalition.

SPÖ/ ÖVP/Green

Potential: This formation is not as odd as it first looks. ÖVP and Greens have worked together at State level and there is potential for achieving a working agreement between the three parties. This would also represent a coalition of three pro-European parties in the current parliament.

Negatives: Potential advance of the Greens would be at the expense of SPÖ/ÖVP votes which makes them a threat as well as a potential partner. ÖVP strategy currently is to aggressively attack the Greens who themselves are keen to highlight their differences with the ÖVP, all of which will complicate potential future discussions.

SPÖ/ ÖVP/Team Stronach

Potential: If ‘Team Stronach’ actually are economically more liberal there could be enough common ground between the three parties to agree a programme of reforms that many in the current government would argue are necessary. Stronach’s current statements about wanting a reformed Europe and out of/changed Euro seem to be sufficiently vague at present not to create an anti-European obstacle.

Negatives: Stronach himself has said that he wants to be the next Chancellor. The Austro-Canadian billionaire businessman has something of a reputation amongst opponents for wanting to ‘lead’ and not being much of a ‘team player. It’s difficult to see the other two parties being willing to concede this demand even if he had the largest faction. Stronach appears to favour a more North American approach to economic issues and this may not sit well even with the more ‘liberal’ wing of the conservative ÖVP.

ÖVP/Team Stronach/FPÖ

Potential: Right of centre coalition would on paper have more in common than the current grand coalition. They’d probably be able to build a working programme with an odd mix of ‘liberal’ and protectionist economic policy combined with a more conservative social policy than the current government.

Negatives: This would be a pro/lukewarm/anti European coalition. A liberal/conservative/protectionist alliance in the economic field. The respective party leaders of Team Stronach and the FPÖ would find it difficult (I suspect) to accept the other as Chancellor and the leader of the ÖVP would find leading a government with the other two in the wings tricky (if they can’t lead I would not be surprised to see Stronach and Strache avoiding government posts and heckling from the sidelines).


Potential: Right of centre coalition would have enough common ground to form a working programme which would include privatisation and a more nationalistic, conservative approach to social/economic issues. Talk of such an alliance strengthens the ability of the ÖVP to keep hold of it more right leaning support and lends respectability to the Far-Right FPÖ. The threat of a deal with the FPÖ is one of the key negotiating cards the ÖVP has in dealing with the SPÖ if they find themselves in Grand Coalition talks again, so keeping the option open has a value in itself.

Negatives: The regular reminders of the FPÖ’s more unacceptable views strengthen the hand of those in the ÖVP who believe such a coalition is a step too far. We’ve been here before with an ÖVP/ FPÖ coalition government. The corruption scandals from that time still dominate the political landscape and are/have damaged each party (but particularly the ÖVP). Talk of such a renewed alliance is ammunition to their opponents. The additional problem for the ÖVP is that such talk stops it drawing centrist and liberal votes back into its camp and runs risk of driving those still remaining into the arms of other parties. The final problem with this scenario is that with the FPÖ’s vote having declined from its opinion poll highs and vulnerable to further loss of support ‘Team Stronach’, the two parties may not be able to muster sufficient numbers for governing together to be an option.

Note on others

The above scenarios could further be complicated if the Pirate Party, one of the Liberal groupings or another minor/new faction can reach the 4% level needed to enter parliament. The only other party in the current parliament, the BZÖ, looks likely to drop out at the next elections as it now consistently only commands around 2%-3% support in the polls.

Table 3: Average ratings across five recent opinion polls

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 27.60% 29.3% -1.70%
OVP 22.40% 26% -3.60%
FPO 21.00% 17.5% 3.50%
Greens 13.60% 10.4% 3.20%
BZO 2.40% 10.7% -8.30%
Others 13.00% 6.1% 6.90%
Note 1: Pirates only appeared separately in Gallup polls
Note 2: Stronach only apears in Gallup, Karmasin & OMG polls
Note 3: Pirates/Stronach incorporated into Others in above table until they appear in all polls
Pirates 3.00% 0.0% 3.00%
Stronach 8.80% 0.0% 8.80%


Charge in support across the political spectrum since last election:

Polls GE 2008 Change
Far-Right FPO/BZO 23.40% 28.20% -4.80%
Right FPO/BZO/OVP 45.80% 54.20% -8.40%
Coalition SPO/OVP 50.00% 55.30% -5.30%
Centre-Left SPO/Green 41.20% 39.70% 1.50%


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Winning with skill and determination – First Vienna FC U13/U11 Girls

Last weekend the First Vienna FC U13 Girls secured their first win of the season. It was not just the 2:5 score line that left the girls, coaches and parents happy, it was the skill and commitment the girls demonstrated.

The weekend before saw the First Vienna FC U11 Girls secure an even more emphatic 1:12 win. Some pic’s from the game can be seen here

The U13 Girls have a tough season ahead but at the moment they are enjoying securing their first league points:

First Vienna FC U13/U11 Girls squad:

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“This is good news for tourists but the kiss of death for the glaciers…”

The quote above by Bernhard Niedermoser, of the Austrian Central Institute for Climate Research and Geodynamics (ZAMG), is reported here in the Austrian Times as part of a short article on a new report looking at the impact of climate change in this part of Europe over the next 50 to 100 years.

If their analysis is correct the Alps are going to get hotter springs and summers with more sun and less rain. The good news for the winter tourism industry (or at least those operating on the higher resorts) is that winters will bring higher levels of snow. This last item is of particular interest as previous reports I’ve seen has suggested that the Alp would see less snow – our understanding of climate changing is developing all the time.

What remains consistent in the report is that despite the increased snow the Alpine glaciers, which play an important role in the supply of water across central Europe, are in trouble. To complete Bernhard Niedermoser quote in my headline “….because it is the summer that controls their fate, it doesn’t matter how much snow falls, it is always the summer that is crucial.”

A few images from the Dachstein glacier:

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Standing room only, a sign of success!

I recently wrote about the success of the new public transport pricing scheme here in Vienna. Well it would appear from this report in the Austrian Times that it’s going to leave me standing and oddly I think that’s rather good news

To recap, in May the Red/Green State coalition government reduced the price of the annual pass from 449 Euro to 365 Euro. In addition they reduced the cost of a monthly ticket from 49.50 to 45 Euro, while increasing the weekly and day ticket prices. This leaves Vienna as one of the cheapest cities in Europe for traveling on what is one of the best public transport systems on the continent.

As an annual pass holder I am ever happy with this development but also as a resident of the city I benefit from the environmental gains achieved as more people take to public transport. With the increase of passengers using the integrated tram, bus and train system Wiener Linien (Transport Company) are having to find new ways to cope with these greater numbers. One solution is to be piloted on my local tramline, the No43. Some seats are to be removed to allow more standing room, as well as additional space for pushchairs and wheelchairs.

So will having to stand at peak times annoy me? Frankly the answer is no. To be honest we have an excellent system, well priced and the trams, buses and trains turn up on time. Standing on the tram occasionally is a small price to pay and it’s hardly London sardine hell round here.

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