Monthly Archives: September 2013

Are NEOS voters Left or Right leaning?


In yesterdays Austrian General Election Neos, the new Centrist Liberal grouping, caused a sensation by securing seats in parliament at the first attempt and making history by being the first new party to achieve such a feat in the history of the Second Republic.

Neos newspaper article 2

Polling research, here, suggests that NEOS have attracted voters in close to equal numbers from the Centre-Left and Centre-Right. The majority of NEOS voters had at the 2008 General Election voted for either the Centre-Right OVP or the Centre-Left Greens. Comparing the two sets of voters gives a split 52% to 48%.

Looking at all NEOS supporters voting behaviour at the 2008 General Election the figures are:

OVP (Centre-Right) – 38%

Greens (Centre-Left) – 35%

SPO (Centre-Left)/FPO & BZO (Right) – 12%

Non-voters – 15%

That only 15% had not voted at the previous General Elections suggests that NEOS is not a ‘party of protest’ but one that is starting to providing a new home to Liberals and Centrists who have historically been scattered across the political establishment.

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The groupings voter base seems to reflect the range of activists found in NEOS – Economic Liberals, Christian Democrats, Centrists, realist Greens, Social Liberals.

The question, as the Party moves on from its first triumph, is can it take advantage of its appeal across the centre and build a powerful broad church or will it follow modern political patterns which tend towards Parties increasingly representing a narrow sectional interest?

To date it’s looking good for a new broad, strong, Austrian Liberal Centre.

Neos newspaper article 1

 

Quick guide to the Parties:

Neos: new Centrist Liberal party. They have a joint electoral platform with the Liberal Forum (LIF). Building party structure across the country, growing membership/supporters network, innovative in campaigning and public engagement. Strongest General Election results in Vienna and Vorarlberg.

SPÖ: Social Democrats – Broad left-centre party. National party structure with Vienna State as their traditional key stronghold.

ÖVP: conservative in the Christian Democrat mould. National party structure with strong rural base but increasingly weak in the Cities. Lower Austria State key stronghold.

FPÖ: Far-Right – Traditional beneficiary of the anti-establishment and populist vote. National structure but weak in most States. Former stronghold of Kärnten lost in State election and now only real stronghold in Vienna State.

Greens: Left-centre party. Traditionally weak national structure bolstered by recent election successes – now part of government in five States.  Vienna State remains most significant stronghold. Party in Vienna more Left in comparison to centrist leanings in other States.

Team Stronach: Populist-Right. New party still building its structures but well funded by its founder/leader, billionaire Austro-Canadian, Frank Stronach. Seems to be a very centralised party dependent upon leader who has to spend significant time in Canada to maintain residency status.

BZÖ:  ‘Moderate’ Far-Right or Right-Wing Conservatives or Right-Wing Liberals. Originally, a breakaway from the FPÖ lead by Haider, the party has failed to find an identity or purpose since his death. No strongholds.

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Votes for 16-17yr olds – good or bad idea?


A quick observation from a country (Austria) in which 16-17yr olds will be voting in next Sundays General Election.

I’ve just read this BBC story  on the latest debate in UK on voting age. It promoted me to comment on twitter:

2013-09-25 07.44.54

Now I’ve talked to a lot of Austrian votes over the last few months about politics and who they will vote for. In all honesty the only people (excluding Party activists and not even many of them) who have actually sat down and read the party programmes were a small group of 16-17yr olds. They hold their own rather well in debate against old voters I’ve been told 🙂

For more info on Austrian General Election: Parties, trends, predictions 

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Opponents, the media, and voters are talking about NEOS – will they be the Election Day sensation?


For a new party to make the  breakthrough and win seats in the Austrian parliament at the first attempt and even go on to join a three party coalition would be a political earthquake. That this could be the story of #NEOS on the 29th September is stirring up the election debate in the final days of the campaign.

 

So is this realistic and is it a significant moment…

Matthias Strolz  of NEOS thinks it is, describing the potential achievement as the ‘Event of the Century’, he may not be far wrong given the challenges of breaking into the system and the fact that the Republic has been governed for the majority of its post war history by the Social Democrat/Conservative Grand Coalition (SPÖ/ ÖVP). Pollsters say it’s not going to be easy but the chance is there.

http://www.xn--sterreich-z7a.at/nachrichten/Schaffen-es-die-NEOS/116627605

I’ve stuck my neck out and am predicting NEOS to secure between 4% and 6% of the vote (4% is required to win seats in parliament).

https://viennalife.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/austrian-general-election-who-will-be-the-winners-on-29th-september-2013/

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 When opponents switch from dismissing you to taking the time to attack or use you to attack another opponent, you’re making an impact:

  • Reds cheer NEOS…..

In parts of the SPÖ, it is hoped that the Neos “many voices” get-because that would certainly weaken the ÖVP and the Green.

In Teilen der SPÖ hofft man, dass die Neos “viele Stimmen” erhalten -denn das würde freilich ÖVP und Grüne schwächen.

http://www.oe24.at/oesterreich/politik/daniel/Neos-werden-zum-Zuenglein-an-der-Wage/116335621

…..but I also know a number of ex- SPÖ supporters who will be voting Pink. The Liberal Centre is broad.

 

  • Erwin Pröll leads the worried ÖVP attack…..

..a foretaste of what was to come in the Republic, when red-green, probably in combination with the Neos, the shots would. This is the reason why it is worth to fight against red-green Neos.

… ein Vorgeschmack darauf, was in der Republik kommen würde, wenn Rot-Grün, wahrscheinlich in Kombination mit den Neos, das Sagen hätte.

http://diepresse.com/home/politik/nrwahl2013/1453421/Erwin-Proell_Absage-an-SchwarzBlauStronach?from=suche.intern.portal

….but it sounds like another reason for more Liberal Greens to switch to NEOS. Green and evidence based policy.

 

  • A desperate BZÖ…..

Bucher for cooperation between liberal forces after the elections – For Strolz an “electoral sham”

Bucher für Kooperation der liberalen Kräfte nach der Wahl – Für Strolz eine “wahltaktische Mogelpackung”

http://derstandard.at/1379291135733/BZOe-will-Plattform-mit-Neos–diese-winken-ab

…but one paper described Bucher’s duel with far-Right FPÖ leader Strache as a ‘Love Show’. Bucher said he could contemplate a coalition with the FPÖ, something NEOS has ruled out.

In the same debate Strache used Bucher’s desperation against him by repeating the name NEOS. Clearly viewing the flirtation with the Centrist Liberal party as a weakness of his fellow right-winger Bucher – as all Liberals know ‘when you are attacked from the Right and from the Left you must be doing something right’.

http://www.oe24.at/oesterreich/politik/Liebes-Show-von-BZOe-und-FPOe/116503782

(Note: Bucher was viewed as ‘winning the debate’).

 

So what do the voters think?

The new Party’s recognition level amongst voters still lags behind the established Parties. However, this is rapidly changing as NEOS have managed to remain an election ‘story’ even without the advantages of State party funding and involvement in the main TV debates.

Polling figures show 19% of the electorate expects NEOS to be one of the election ‘winners’. The polls always seem to lag behind the level of discussion on the street about NEOS. There appears to be a NEOS wave of support growing (certainly in the States of Vienna and Lower Austria – I have no strong networks of non-political contacts in other States). On the 29th September we will discover whether the wave is yet strong enough to cause a pink revolution.

(Note: Pink is the NEOS party colour).

 

 

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Austrian General Election – Who will be the winners on 29th September 2013?


With just over a week to go before the General Election I take a look at the polls and whose campaign has momentum, which is stagnating, which parties are fading away? I also make a few predictions for the results on Election Day.

Here are the current national average ratings for the Parties based upon the last five polls in the press:

SPÖ: 26.6%,  ÖVP: 22.8%,  FPÖ 20.2%,  Greens: 14.2%,  Team Stronach: 7.8%,  BZÖ: 2.9%,  NEOS: 2.9%,  Pirates: 1.0%, Others: 1.6%

The percentage variation across these five polls:

SPÖ: 26% – 27%, ÖVP: 22% – 23%, FPÖ 20 – 21%, Greens 13% – 15%, Team Stronach: 7 – 9%, BZÖ 2% – 4%, NEOS: 2 – 3.5%, Pirates: 1%

 2013-09-20 13.50.07

Trends and predictions

Top spot

It looks like a safe bet that first place will go to the SPÖ even though their poll ratings haven’t moved since the beginning of August and they are slightly down from the 27% rating at the beginning of the year.

The Party had talked in the early stages of the election campaign about breaking the 30% mark but this looks extremely unrealistic after a campaign that has clearly been aimed at their core vote. Despite their consistent lead, party strategists will be concerned to ensure a strong end to the campaign as some reports in the papers talk about difficulties in mobilising their vote, particularly in Lower Austria the country’s largest state.

Prediction – SPÖ retain top spot but with a vote down from 2008 (29.3%) – 25% to 27%

 

Breakthrough

There are three Parties on the ballot paper who are not represented in the outgoing parliament – NEOS, Pirates, and Communists. They face the challenge of competing against Parties who receive State funding and of being excluded from the main election debates on TV. Currently none are achieving a poll average of 4% – the figure needed to enter the next parliament.

Prediction – NEOS will breach the 4% barrier and enter parliament. They have established themselves as credible challengers with many in the media; have successfully made themselves ‘the story’ and in so doing received higher levels of press coverage; the most recent polls have them at 3% to 3.5%. Additionally, my experience of talking to a cross-section of voters from Vienna & Lower Austria (the two largest States) says sympathy is turning into votes (but this continually lags behind the polls). – 4% to 6%

 

Fight for second place

The gap between the ÖVP and FPÖ has narrowed in September. The ÖVP average figure is now back to its poll rating at the beginning of the year. Although slipping back in the last week from the start of August, they have a significantly stronger party machine than their rival for second. Moreover, the FPÖ support seems to be less motivated than in previous years and they may have difficulties getting their vote out on Election Day.

Prediction – The ÖVP had a good start to 2013 gaining momentum from the State elections. However, their ‘Year of the ÖVP’ (the hope of finishing first) has died with a weak election campaign. Earlier in the summer they were benefiting from the erosion of support for both Team Stronach and FPÖ. However, the latter has stabilised its position and is itself now benefiting from the continued decline of Team Stronach. The ÖVP’s one remaining positive is that their organisation appears to be highly motivated and likely to ‘get their core vote out’. – 21% to 23% (down from 2008 result of 26%).

 

Is there a fight for third?

The Greens advanced over the summer and the FPÖ poll ratings where falling. For a while the idea of the Greens moving into third place became a serious point of debate. With two weeks to go the Greens advance has stalled while the FPÖ has rallied its support. Despite a good campaign and their leader, Eva Glawischnig, performing well in the main TV confrontations, the party’s average rating is once again at 14.2%.

The FPÖ have been fighting a defensive campaign seeking to stop the slide in their support, which has had success in moving their poll average back to 20.2% from the 18.6% at the start of August – still short of the 20.8% at the beginning of the year and a long way from their 26.6% back in January 2012.

Predictions:

–          The FPÖ to retain third place unless another scandal hits the Party in the final week. Historically, the polls understate their support, but in 2013 State elections the polls have been reasonably accurate. – 17% to 20% (stagnation or small advance from 2008 result of 17.5%).

 –          The Greens have had very good campaign but it’s slipping away from them. The ‘killjoy, telling people how to live their lives’ attacks from opponents have hit home with potential voters for the Green camp. While the more centrist Green message has been to the fore the more Left Green image in Vienna has not helped attract floating voters – 14% to 16% (up from 2008 result of 10.4%).

 

Possibly one of the worst campaigns in history

There is no really competition for this title. The clear undisputed winner is already the campaign of Team Stronach. Unfortunately, their Austro-Canadian founder, leader, and top list candidate Frank Stronach has performed poorly in the main TV confrontations, there have been divisions in the Party, and the campaign has (in my opinion) been appallingly weak given the millions the billionaire businessman has pumped into his Party. Since the beginning of August the Party has fallen from an average of 9.2% to 7.8%. When the Party was founded in their poll rating was 11% (and briefly had reach 16%).

Prediction – FRANK 6% to 8%

 

Fighting losers

Predicted by many (including me) to be sure bets not to return in the next parliament, the BZÖ have had a surprisingly good campaign. Party leader, Josef Bucher, first surprise of the campaign was to exclude a number of the Party’s better known right-wing members from the national list. His second surprise was good performances in the TV confrontations. However, the while pressing a more moderate new image, the Party has still been paddling at times in the same pool as the far-Right FPÖ and populist Team Stronach.

Prediction – 1% to 3%  (down from 2008 result of 10.7%).

 

Sources:

Gallup/oe 20-09 13
Karmasin/Heute 20-09-13
Hajek/ATV 19-09-13
Market/Der Standard 15-09-13
Spectra/Kleine Zeitung 14-09-13
 

 

Quick guide to the Parties:

SPÖ: Social Democrats – Broad left-centre party. National party structure with Vienna State as their traditional key stronghold.

ÖVP: conservative in the Christian Democrat mould. National party structure with strong rural base but increasingly weak in the Cities. Lower Austria State key stronghold.

FPÖ: Far-Right – Traditional beneficiary of the anti-establishment and populist vote. National structure but weak in most States. Former stronghold of Kärnten lost in State election and now only real stronghold in Vienna State.

Greens: Left-centre party. Traditionally weak national structure bolstered by recent election successes – now part of government in five States.  Vienna State remains most significant stronghold. Party in Vienna more Left in comparison to centrist leanings in other States.

Team Stronach: Populist-Right. New party still building its structures but well funded by its founder/leader, billionaire Austro-Canadian, Frank Stronach. Seems to be a very centralised party dependent upon leader who has to spend significant time in Canada to maintain residency status.

BZÖ:  ‘Moderate’ Far-Right or Right-Wing Conservatives or Right-Wing Liberals. Originally, a breakaway from the FPÖ lead by Haider, the party has failed to find an identity or purpose since his death. No strongholds.

Neos: new Centrist Liberal party. They have a joint electoral platform with the Liberal Forum (LIF). Building party structure across the country, growing membership/supporters network, innovative in campaigning and public engagement.

Austrian Pirate Party: Left-centre party. Always keen to point out that they are more than an Internet party. More committed to ‘Liquid Democracy’ approach than their better known sister party in Germany.

 

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