Will the Greens leave behind their voters for Neos to scoop up?

Events in Germany have generated a few stories in the Austrian press in the last couple of days focusing on the position of the Greens in Austrian politics. The stimulus for these articles has been the election by the German Greens of two leaders, for next year’s federal elections, with a broad middle class appeal. The German Greens it seems are going after the CDU’s conservative voters rather than just seeking to secure left leaning support. (Reuters article)

This turn of events has lead to articles about the Austrian Greens and in particular this one caught my eye: Green: Vienna moves to the left, to the right Berlin. It an interesting idea, the Greens moving further to the left in Austrian politics and it might work for them, if that’s what they really intend.

The Austrian Greens, despite being the only party elected into the current Parliament that hasn’t faced one or more major scandals, have only increased their support to date by 4% and remain fourth in the polls. Last year they seemed to benefit from the decline in support for the conservative ÖVP but more recently their stronger poll ratings have coincided with a weakening of the SPÖ (Social Democrats). The latter are already in a longstanding battle with the far-Right FPÖ in their traditional working class areas and now face a further challenge from the new right-of-centre ‘Team Stronach’. With support dented by poorly handled scandal accusations and facing towards the challenge of Populists on the right, the SPÖ look vulnerable on their left flank. The temptation to push left and make real inroads may look highly tempting to the Greens in general and the more fundamentalist faction in particular.

But if the Greens did shift further to the left could they maintain their existing voter base while adding disillusioned traditional left-wing voters?

It is notable that the rise of the Green Party in general elections was mirrored by the decline of the LIF (Austrian Liberal Party). Many of these LIF voters switch to the Greens. I have already highlighted that the rise and fall in the opinion polls of the conservative ÖVP and the Greens last year often mirrored each other – liberal ÖVP voters switching. In short, the Greens are currently home to a mix of traditional Greens, left-Greens and social Liberal voters. A leftwards strategy that simply replaced these liberal & progressive voters with disillusioned leftists would be unlikely to reap dividends and I suspect would lead to a net loss of support.

Up until recently the Greens have had only the worry of losing liberal voters to the ‘not voting camp’. However, a new player has taken to the Austrian political field in the form of ‘Neos – the new Austria’. A party formed to provide a rallying point for homeless Liberals and other progressives, its founding members include former activists from the Greens, Liberals, and ÖVP. If it can overcome the challenges of not receiving the benefits of media access and state funding enjoyed by Parties already in the Parliament then Neos is likely to draw support away from the Greens – even more so if the latter really jumped further to the corporate left.

In an ideal world and looking at the alternatives on offer, seeing both the Greens and Neos well represented in the next Austrian parliament would creative a new dynamic to a system that many across the political spectrum think needs renewing.

Link:  http://neos.eu/



Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

10 responses to “Will the Greens leave behind their voters for Neos to scoop up?

  1. FYI – the Pirate Party of Austria will also scoop up many disaffected Green voters … 😉

    • When the Pirate vote was significantly higher the Greens remained unchanged. The decline of the Pirate vote to 2% has not again impacted upon the Greens. A poll tonight has Greens down to 11%-13% but the Pirates remain at 2%-3%. So what will be different in the future to create a switch from Green to Pirate?

  2. Well, the Greens have been between 11 and (in a single poll) 16 or something like that, so there’s a lot of statistical noise here … and our first big boom was mostly based on spillover from Germany, and I expect many of those saying they’d vote for us were not necessarily the well-informed voters, but rather the protest vote (some of which is now being scooped up by Stronach); if (I’d rather say: “when” ;)) we gain voters again and stabilize at around 5–7% (my personal expectation), I’d expect that to be more firmly based on our political positions and values and less of a protest vote, so we should be more likely to gain disaffected Greens’ and Liberals’ votes.

    What’s your take?

    • As you say the Pirates have had good figures after the events in Germany. But polling data I’ve read suggests you’ve pulled mainly protest votes and anti-establishment voters from the Right – hence the impact of Team Stronach. I would not discount the possibility of the Austrian Pirates achieving 4%-5% but why would Austrian Greens switch to you remains my question. As for liberal voters, they are more likely to support a broad based Liberal Party. I note the Pirates have lost some of their own ‘liberals’ with the split of the Real Democrats Austria which doesn’t suggest a programme likely to attract social liberals.
      The Pirates have had a noticeable amount of coverage pre-Stronach but were already declining – I suspect in part due to the perception of splits and arguments. The electorate is sufficiently volatile to make it foolish to rule out the Pirates but your vote is likely to come (if at all) from people currently giving support to the Right more than Greens or Liberals.

      • I have to disagree with you there. We’ve had some internal problems over the summer, but our situation is now better than ever; the soft support we had in the polls in spring wasn’t ever really there, if you ask me.

        The Real Democrats, however, are a complete non-entity – they’re literally four people who just couldn’t accept that the Pirate Party of Austria didn’t take kindly to top-down management and “leadership” (of the bad kind).

        I sincerely doubt that we’ll get too many true supporters of right-wing parties; our program is quite clearly social liberal in nature (drug liberalization, support for welfare state – though with reforms, including a basic income – and social market economy, pro LGBT rights, …), Neos is more of a conservative liberal party, so we could both have sucess at the same time if we attract more Greens/SP/left-wing Libs and Neos attracts more VP/BZÖ/right-wing Libs voters. We’ll get some right-wing voters who only vote FPÖ/BZÖ/Stronach out of protest, but not based on our centre-left program, that’s for sure.

      • It’s the protest voter who gives the far-Right their ‘anti-the-establishment’ vote I was referring to in terms of potential Pirate votes. The deep Green support just won’t switch to you in the shorter. Maybe some disaffected SPO might.
        As for Neos, they appear to be a much broader Liberal grouping than you describe – both social/green/centrist/economic liberals. If true they will scoop the vast majority of social/green Liberals as well as centrist/economic Liberals.
        As someone with deep social Liberal views I’m glad to hear that your programme is progressive & would hope you have success. But as a social Liberal the Pirates are not an attractive first choice option. I will continue to follow developments with interest.

  3. Deep Greens won’t support us, yeah; but neither won’t strong-minded workers’ rights activists and other strongly partisan groups. The “soft” Green support might very well switch to us.

    From what I’ve read so far (and from Wahlkabine.at) it’s pretty evident to me that Neos is to the right of the LIF – as evidenced by the fact that the JuLis are backing Neos (… after splitting from LIF because they were too “neoliberal”, if you will – in favour of privatizing health and education, among other topics), so I’m optimistic that social liberal voters will at least consider voting for us. 😉 But I agree that Neos would be a strong improvement over many other parties we currently have to endure, and I wouldn’t mind at all if Neos scooped up the Wirtschaftsbund voters in the medium to long term …

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