After riding high at the beginning of 2012 the Far-Right FPÖ finished the year down 5.8% in comparison to their position last January. Last year started with the Party challenging the SPÖ (Social Democrats) for first place in the polls, now they sit firmly third and looking over their shoulder.
On the 3rd March 2013 two of this year’s four State elections look likely to deal the FPÖ further serious blows in advance of the General Election due in September. Recent polls in suggest:
– In Lower Austria (the largest State in Austria) suggest that the Party will slip into fifth place with 8% (down 2.5%) – bad news for a Party that at the national level is the main opposition to the ruling Grand Coalition (SPÖ & conservative ÖVP).
– Worst is to come in their Karnten stronghold. Here the State is currently run by the FPÖ’s sister party the FPK. As the election campaign kicks off in earnest the FPK has dropped 20% points and trails the SPÖ 33% to 25%.
The FPÖ has long been Austria’s party of protest. Poll figures regularly show the level of support for the Party in an opposition role higher than those wishing to see it in government. However, its protest vote role has now been usurped by one of the new parties, Team Stronach. This new rival is currently securing around 9% to 10% in the polls. If it were to advance further – and lead by Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach it certainly has the money to compete – it is likely to continue to draw a disproportionate level of support from defecting FPÖ voters.
Immigration (Islamaphobia), Crime, and Europe are all favourite areas of FPÖ focus. Despite these having been high profile topics in recent weeks – and the Party banging its usual drum – there has been no improvement in its poll ratings.
The only glimmer of light for the FPÖ is that voters from across the spectrum say they think the Party will do well this year. Such impressions usually lag behind events and events are about to declare loudly, it seems, that this is not going to be a good year for the FPÖ.
Politics is an unpredictable business but I would not recommend putting money of the FPÖ leaders’ view that the polls are wrong and they will finish the General Election in first place.