Will history see 3rd March 2013 as the date when the Austrian Far-Right began its fall into oblivion?

Crisis, catastrophe, internal feuds, disaster, power struggle, confusion, these are the words being associated with Austria’s Far-Right Freedom Party (FPÖ) following the outcome of State elections in both Lower Austria and Kärnten.

In Kärnten the FPÖ’s sister party, the FPK, saw its support collapse by 28% percentage points, from 45% to just under 17%:

Election result

FPK – 16.9%

SPÖ – 37.1%

ÖVP – 14.1%

Greens – 12.1%

Team Stronach – 11.2%

BZÖ – 6.4%

Others – 2%

The result follows major scandals and leaves the FPÖ significantly damaged in one of the only two (of Austria’s nine) states where the Party is a major force. The loss of a significant amount of state (party) funding will further weaken the Party in what is Federal election year (due to take place on the 28th September).

It will worry the FPÖ that many of their voters switch to the SPÖ (Social Democrats) and to the new player on the right of Austrian politics, Team Stronach (TS -populist, right of centre). Other previous supporters simple stayed at home. If the results are an indication that nationally the SPÖ can reconnect with a section of the FPÖ voter base, while TS can scoop up their protest voters, then FPÖ faces major threats to its ambitions.

In Lower Austria the FPÖ’s share of the vote declined by just 2 percentage points but they only managed 4th place, behind TS and barely ahead of the Greens:

Election result

ÖVP – 50.8%

SPÖ – 21.6%

Team Stronach – 9.8%

FPÖ – 8.2%

Greens – 8%

Others – 1.6%

This election was seen by the media as a duel between the ÖVP and State Governor, Erwin Pröll and TS founder, the Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach. In the end Erwin Pröll retained the ÖVP’s absolute majority while the FPÖ campaign was squeeze to death in his battle with Frank Stronach.

The two elections show that the FPÖ can no longer take for granted the protest vote, this now has the option of Team Stronach. Already the party appears to be shifting back into the more vehement anti-immigration, social conservatism, and anti-EU version of its rhetoric. We can expect this to get worse as they seek to retain their core vote. Interestingly they appear to be moving to a more clearly EU withdrawal position in an attempt to differentiate themselves from the more mildly Euro-sceptic TS. The problem for the FPÖ is that this is a defensive approach; the strategy has previously been shown to hamper the further growth of their support.

Prior to the election results I was reading comments in the press about the dangers of a backlash from the FPÖ’s right-wing against the party leader Heinz-Christian Strache. His initial response to the election results was to press for the integration of the FPK into the FPÖ and for changes in the leadership of the State party in Lower Austria. A few days later the former looks unlikely and newspapers are reporting Strache’s U-turn in Lower Austria – fulsome support for the leadership. It would appear that divisions will continue to underpin the FPÖ and their leader remains vulnerable going into two further State elections and the general election.

Interestingly the first national opinion poll  since last Sunday shows FPÖ support dropping. Unless thing change significantly I may soon be writing about the FPÖ being overtaken by the Greens and/or Team Stronach – but I’m a natural optimist 🙂





Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

6 responses to “Will history see 3rd March 2013 as the date when the Austrian Far-Right began its fall into oblivion?

  1. Pingback: Small tremors from regional elections hit national poll ratings | viennalife

  2. James

    The FPÖ would be polling 24-29% if not for TS splitting the right wing vote. The national elections are 7 months away. Much can change in that time span. Team Stronach is led by an 80 year old opportunist.

    They won’t go into oblivion or anything of that sort. They have a minimum support base of 20% and will probably poll 20-25% consistently until the election. Stronach is an idiot if he thinks he will win the elections and take 30% of the vote. If anything, he will perpetuate a Red-Black government again! I love how the poster paints a rosy picture about how the same two corrupt parties who have governed Austria since the Second World War will be great winning the elections.

    How has mass-immigration and EU fascism been good for Austria? Haider split the Freedom Party vote in 2008, otherwise if BZO voters had backed the Freedom Party it would be #1 in Parliament. Let’s hope Austrians are wise and choose a nationalist party this time around, not the same globalists clowns who have run the country into the ground.

  3. I’m pleased to say the polling and voting evidence in the last year is against you. An interesting fact is that the FPO national share in the polls has not changed since Team Stronach was launched. They were already in significant decline as a result of corruption scandals from their period in national government with the OVP and the scandals in Karnten.

    The last Presidential election seems to confirm polling evidence that the base vote for the FPO is around 15%.

    The two State elections show that Team Stronach is pulling in significant support from previous non-voters. It also takes a much higher level of support from the FPO than other parties in respect of voters switching parties. It is noticeable that polls for the upcoming State election in Salzburg – where the SPO & OVP have problems – are looking good for the Greens, not the FPO.

    In short. TS are has not yet done its damage to the FPO but it clearly has the ability to deprive them of scooping up protest votes and looks likely to eat into their support.

    What will also worry the FPO is that in Karnten it was the SPO who significantly ate into their support. A reinvigorate SPO on one side and TS on the other will be a strategic problem for an FPO which has significant internal strains and on going image issues around corruption and extremism.

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