Monthly Archives: October 2012

We’ve been having fun with this political test – why not have a go yourself?


You don’t have to be Austrian to take the test and most of the 25 questions are understandable using Google translate if you don’t speak German.

I’ve been having fun challenging friends and family to take the http://wahlkabine.at/2012 test which allows you to compare your views of 25 questions with all of Austria’s main parties (the exception being Team Stronach who decides not to participate). It’s been fun and sometimes surprising seeing the results. It’s not a direct guide to which party you would support if you have (had) a vote in next year’s elections as the questions focus on current topics not an election programme. For instance the Green’s may or may not have been closer to my opinions if the survey had had a couple of questions with a more specific environmental focus.

For non-Austrians its fun to compare who you support in your own country with which party you most closely agree with in Austria.

Here’s the link to the questions

My own test result was:

Have fun 🙂

 

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Far-Right on the defensive


As Kurier newspaper highlights today, the far-Right FPÖ are on the defensive after the emergence of a new centre-right competitor. Whilst the recent dramatic fall in their support has levelled out – for now – the strategists of the FPÖ are seeking to concentrate on ‘old favourites’ in an attempt to stem further losses, particularly to the newly launched Team Stronach.

As the opinion polls table below shows, the FPÖ has lost over 6% of its support since January. This has primarily been as a consequence of a wave of scandals finally damaging the Party. Now they face a new centre-right challenge from the Anglo-Canadians billionaire, Frank Stronach, and his ‘Team Stronach’ Party. Polling evidence suggests this new competitor has the ability to take a significant chunk of the remaining FPÖ vote.

Average across five current opinion polls and change since January 2012

 Poll Average Now  Average Jan 2012  Change
SPO  26%  28.60%  -2.60%
OVP  22.20%  23.80%  -1.60%
FPO  20.40%  26.60%  -6.20%
Greens  14.80%  13.60%   1.20%
BZO  3.20%  4.80%  -1.60%
Team Stronach  10.00%  0.0%   10.00%
Others  3.40%  2.60%   0.80%

 

To counter the threat, the FPÖ are once again playing the anti-asylum card hard again having more recently tried to focus on an anti-EU line. The problem they face is that whilst this approach has had success for the Party in the past there is evidence that it might actually drive some supports over to Team Stronach and further limit the chances of the Party recapturing voters who have already deserted them.

Interesting I note in the article that FPÖ strategists are, for now, avoiding directly attacking Frank Stronach as he is viewed positively by many of their voters.

FPÖ strategists are also trying to revive the idea that the general election next year will be about whether they or the SPÖ (Social Democrats) can come out on top. This looks less credible with both the emergence of ‘Team Stronach’ and the fact that the FPÖ are behind the (conservative) ÖVP in recent opinion polls.

 

Polling sources: IMAS/Krone 26-10-12
Gallup/oe24 21-10-12
Karmasin/Profil 20-10-12
Market/Standard 10-10-12
Oekonsult 9-10-12

 

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European Union unemployment in & outside of the Eurozone – top 5 lowest in the zone


Just been reading an article in der Standand which has a little bit of good news for Austria, bad news for the Eurozone, and highlighting that those EU members – including the UK – outside the Euro aren’t exactly doing better when it comes to unemployment rates.

The good news for Austria is that not only did it still have the lowest unemployment of all 27 EU member states in September; it also had the lowest rate of youth unemployment after the figure fell to 7.5%.

Overall the Eurozone unemployment rate hit a new high, but before the usual voices in the UK start talking about how this proves they are so much better off, it’s worth noting that the top 5 for lowest unemployment are all Eurozone countries. The UK figure looks reasonable in comparison to many others inside and outside the Eurozone but it’s not exactly a spectacular success. Oh yes and let’s remember before the shout goes out that a UK exit from the EU would open up greater options in the ‘world market’, that the likes of Austria & Germany succeed in those markets as well as (like the UK) gaining form the single European market.

The unemployment figures below are taken from der Standard article.

Eurozone Member Unemployment Rate

Sept 2012

Outside Eurozone
Austria 4.4%  
Luxembourg 5.2%  
Germany 5.4%  
Netherlands 5.4%  
Malta 6.4%  
  6.8% Czech Republic
  7.1% Romania
Belgium 7.4%  
  7.8% Sweden
Finland 7.9%  
  7.9% UK
  8.1% Denmark
Slovenia 8.4%  
Estonia 10.0%  
  10.1% Poland
  10.6% Hungary
France 10.8%  
Italy 10.8%  
Cyprus 12.2%  
  12.4% Bulgaria
  13.9% Lithuania
Slovakia 13.9%  
Ireland 15.1%  
Portugal 15.7%  
  15.9% Latvia
Greece 25.1%  
Spain 25.8%  

 

 

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Filed under Austrian Economy, Austrian Politics, Politics, UK Politics, Vienna Life

If you thought tsunamis only happened at sea think again!


An article here in yesterdays Austrian Times reports on calls for lakeside towns and villages in the Alpine region to reassess the risk from tsunamis. The warning comes from Professor Johann Stötter, an expert on Alpine Global Warming, from the University of Innsbruck.

The concerns focus upon new research from the University of Innsbruck which show permafrost is now disappearing at a rate of 5cm to 10cm a year. In Alpine areas above 2500 metres the soil is held in place as a result of being permanently frozen and until recently only the surface layer has been known to thaw.

This deeper thawing of the permafrost increases the risk of significant rock and landslides which can create lake tsunamis. The article gives a few historical examples, as well as highlighting huge rise in lakeside populations and how simulation show that collapses can lead to large tsunamis developing extremely quickly.

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So what makes a successful football team?


Is success all about the players, the manager or the system? Is it about skill, technique or training? Endless hours of debate can be had about these issues whenever a group of football fans gather together.

Thanks to the excellent translation efforts of my fellow Viola fan @forzaviola15 I had the opportunity to read an interview recently with Austria Wien’s manager Peter Stöger. His answers to two particular questions sheds some light on how he has turned around the fortunes of the team since being appointed in the summer:

Is it true you don’t spend a lot of time speaking about the system to your team, but instead focus on everybody’s individual tasks? What are the advantages of that?

I think it’s important that the players know what they have to do. That doesn’t have a lot to do with the system. Having a compact system is one half of the story, having the players really know about their responsibilities is the other. I can pass the ball along for hours and run across the pitch, but when something happens that we haven’t prepared, everybody needs to react. They have to know how to deal with dangerous situations.

So everybody has an individual emergency plan?

Everybody knows what 4-4-2 etc mean. In attack situations, we focus a lot on timing, but we mostly talk about defending. And in that area, the players need to know three to four things. They need to know if this or that happens I have to react in this way. Apart from that, we deal with problem areas and correct mistakes. Mistakes happen in every game, they usually decide its outcome. In that area, I work with everybody in the same way.  Of course, we work on passing and timing, but definitely not as much.

The club currently sits second in the Austrian Premiership.  If they can maintain their current form (and the sign are good) they have every chance of finishing as league champions.

Forza Viola! In Peter Stöger we trust 🙂

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Are voters protesting or looking for a new home?


The current average poll ratings below show all the parties in the current parliament losing support this year, with one exception. But none have much to cheer about and all should be worried by the current trends. Inaction, inept politics and corruption scandals are shaking the foundations of the political establishment more than ever.

Table 1: Average across five current opinion polls and change since January 2012

 Poll Average Now  Average Jan 2012  Change
SPO  26%  28.60%  -2.60%
OVP  22.20%  23.80%  -1.60%
FPO  20.40%  26.60%  -6.20%
Greens  14.80%  13.60%   1.20%
BZO  3.20%  4.80%  -1.60%
Team Stronach  10.00%  0.0%   10.00%
Others  3.40%  2.60%   0.80%

 

Why they should worry:

SPO: Having sat steady on 29%-30% in the polls for over a year they failed to effectively deal with their own alleged corruption scandal and managed to make themselves look as tainted as the centre-right & right-wing parties who have faced one serious scandal after another.

The results for the SPO have been touching the 25% in some polls and they risk losing support the Greens on one side and Team Stronach on the other.

OVP: The only good news is that their share of the vote has settled at the 21%-23% (in latter half of 2009 they were polling 31%-35%). But there seems little evidence that they can attract new support and they are vulnerable to losing liberal votes Neos and/or LIF as well as conservative learning voters to Team Stronach.

FPO: Their free fall in the polls has slowed following the SPO’s problems distracting attention away from the FPO’s scandals. However, a Party that was once bouncing between 24%-29% is now bouncing between 18%-23%. It faces competition from Team Stronach for the populist vote and has been losing chunks of its anti-establishment vote.

BZO: Up as high as 5% in one poll this week but regularly averaging 2% in most opinion polls. This week’s blip probably coming from the higher coverage they’ve received from defections by some of their MPs to Team Stronach and their Party conference. What little vote they have left seems likely to end up like their MPs with Team Stronach.

Greens: Only Party in the current parliament to see their poll ratings rise since January and the only Party not to be mired in scandal. The problem is that given the current fluidity in voter support and general dissatisfaction they ought to be doing even better. While they may gain from any further drop in the SPO vote they risk seeing a chunk of their liberal vote switching to the newly launched Neos. This new liberal grouping, if it can make an impact, will also mean the Greens to benefiting from any remaining liberal OVP voters switching to them (as has happened in the past).

Table 2: Average across five current opinion polls and change since General Election 2008

   Poll Average Now  General Election 2008  Change
SPO  26.00%  29.30%  -3.30%
OVP  22.20%  26.00%  -3.80%
FPO  20.40%  17.50%   2.90%
Greens  14.80%  10.40%   4.40%
BZO  3.20%  10.70%  -7.50%
Team Stronach  10.00%  0.00%   10.00%
Others  3.40%  6.10%  -2.70%

 

What about the new Parties?

Team Stronach: The party of the Austro-Canadian billionaire was launched last month and has successfully established itself at the 10% mark in the polls. Through defections it has now established itself in Parliament and if give formal ‘club status’ will benefit from State Party Funding and greater access to coverage in the media during next year’s elections.

With the financial clout and the high profile of Frank Stronach, ‘Team Stronach’ may be able to push on in the opinion polls. However, accusations of a ‘one man show’, ‘no real programme’, and ‘buying MPs’ seem to have stalled the initial bandwagon. Pre-launch the ‘party’ was polling between 6%-16%, currently 9%-11% – is this consolidation or the limit of Franks appeal?

The Austrian Pirates: Their ship seems to have already been sunk (sorry I just couldn’t resist). From polling as high as the mid-teens in the summer, they are now registering 2% consistently – 4% is the minimum required to secure seats in the Parliament.

Neos: Launching today on a liberal platform. They are aiming to secure 10% of the vote. There are others also trying to grab attention & they will need to be able to draw social & economic liberals together to make the impact they want.

What about the voters?

I’ve commented in this blog on a number of occasions about the fact that up to 20% of voters have said they would support a new Party. Team Stronach has made the first successful grab for that vote. But current trends in the polls strongly suggest that even more voters are willing to switch their support (either between the traditional Parties or the newcomers). It seems increasingly possible that the ‘winner’ of the 2013 election could secure less than 25% of the popular vote – a year ago the discussion was about having +30% to ensure first spot. Unless of course one or more Parties can make a convincing case to voters that they can do better but at present most are trying to hold on to what they’ve got.

 

 

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Today a new liberal party takes to the stage


With a conference here in Vienna today, at the Urania, Neos will be the latest addition to the growing list of political parties lining up to compete in next year’s General Election in Austria.

In the run-up to today’s launch here is what the papers have been highlighting about ‘Neos – the new Austria’:

oe24.at produced a succinct summary of the Party’s place in the political spectrum: Neos see themselves as a liberal party. There are suggestions of possible co-operation with the Liberal Forum (LIF) and the Young Liberals (JuLis). The Party is particularly hoping to attract support from liberal voters who currently find a home with the Greens or ÖVP (conservatives). The Party’s leading figure, Matthias Strolz, was formerly involved with the ÖVP.

Die Presse also highlighted the Party as a new liberal grouping and mentioned reports of possible connections with both the Liberal Forum (LIF) and the Young Liberals (Julis). It also flagged up that the Party unlikely to find common ground with the other recent arrival, Team Stronach, which has taken up a position on the conservative right. The paper also highlights that Neos see themselves as an alternative for those who feel the traditional parties are resistant to reform and view the (traditional alternative) FPÖ as too extreme to support.

The Die Presse article points out that the new Party has emerged from recent citizens movements calling for democratic reforms: It also flags up policy areas already adopted by the new Party – no conscription, no to new property tax, see ESM as a ‘tragedy’ but would have agreed.

Kurier article interestingly doesn’t mention the word liberal but does mention ÖVP a number of times. The paper highlights that Neos wants to reduce State funding of parties by 75%, schools should have full budget and staffing autonomy, tax and contribution rates should be reduced.

The newspaper also focuses upon Neos’s political reform agenda including more direct democracy.

Kleine Zeitung’s short article picks up on the point that the founding convention comprises people from all sectors of society and Austrian states, with about half of those attending being self-employed. It also highlights the Party’s desire to expand the use of referendum, as well as to abolition provincial and territorial tax for the states.

Wiener Zeitung’s coverage puts emphasis on the new Party’s policies, highlighting: administrative reform; health care reform; more autonomy for schools; changes to taxation; democratic reforms.

The article also talks about the Party’s approach to politics. In the spring the Party programme will be subject internet based debate. Elections for candidates will follow the example of the French Socialists with the Board, party members and the public through primaries equally involved in creating the Party List (Austria has a regional list system for national elections).

Like some of the other papers, the article also highlights the Party’s aim of achieving 10% of the vote in next year’s General Election.

Links

Website: http://neos.eu/

Twitter: @neos_eu @matstrolz

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