Monthly Archives: April 2014

Austrian voters’ line-up with Pro-EU Parties


Not always known for its pro-EU sympathies, the electorate of Austria are this time round more firmly backing parties with pro-EU views.

The headlines I read in the international press often talk about the advance of the FPÖ alongside other Far-Right parties in the upcoming EU parliamentary elections. If you look at the current polling averages and compare them to the last election it would appear, at first glance, that we have another story of Far-Right, anti-EU advance in an EU member state. FPÖ 2009 12.7% now average poll figure 19.6%.

But wait. Let’s add a few footnotes:

  1. Austria is a country where opinion polls regularly show around 33% of the electorate as EU sceptic.
  2. Last election the FPÖ faced serious competition for the sceptic vote from the Martin List and the BZÖ.
  3. This time round there is no Martin List, the BZÖ dropped out of the national parliament last September and their lead candidate quit early in their campaign. The other anti-EU parties competing have few resources and represent no serious competition.
  4. In national politics the governing Grand Coalition of the SPÖ/ÖVP have had a bad start to their latest term in office.

In short, the FPÖ as the largest opposition party in Austria should have everything going for them. But that’s not how it’s playing out in the polls:

Average figures based on last five EU polls

  Polls Av Now Euro 2009 Change
SPO 23.4% 23.74% -0.3%
OVP 24.6% 29.98% -5.4%
FPO 19.6% 12.71% 6.9%
Greens 12.8% 9.93% 2.9%
Martin 0.0% 17.67% -17.7%
NEOS 13.2% 0.00% 13.2%
BZO 1.8% 4.58% -2.8%
REKOS 1.2% 0.00% 1.2%
Ander 1.4% 0.00% 1.4%

 

The pro-EU parties SPÖ/ÖVP/Grünen/NEOS have a combined figure of 74%. While the Populist EU sceptics FPÖ/BZÖ/REKO combined total is 22.6%.

Currently parties with a broadly pro-EU position are up +10% against the anti-EU camp.

I wrote the other day about the advance of the progressives alternatives in the national parliamentary polls. In the EU polls the gap between the progressive alternatives and the populists is currently larger:

Polls Av
Greens NEOS 26.0%
SPO OVP 48.0%
FPO BZO/REKOS 22.6%

 

One particular point of interest is that the party with the strongest pro-EU message, Neos, is making the largest impact in the election.  This Liberal Centrist party broke into the national parliament at the first attempt last September with just under 5% of the vote. They have now overtaken the Greens in the polls with an average figure of 13.2%. It seems the Party’s ‘We love Europe’ slogan is doing them no harm.

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“Neos is also a wake-up call for the ÖVP” say Haslauer


Der Standard has an interview today with Salzburg Governor (ÖVP) Wilfried Haslauer. He makes a lot of sense about the need for the ÖVP to change, has an amusing dig at Neos (another failed attempt to dismiss the Party), and highlights the problem reformist will have in changing the ÖVP.

For English readers the article can be read using Google translate without too many problems.

Haslauer, I think correctly, identifies one of the ÖVP’s main problems as “the temptation that we explain to people how they should live”. He goes on to call for more openness and tolerance saying that critical accommodation of diversity of lifestyles is one of the tasks of the programme discussion now started in the Party.

It’s difficult to see the ÖVP achieving this change in its DNA. While there are probably many in the Party who would agree with Haslauer, the party structure and the traditionalist/conservative wing of the ÖVP will undoubtedly block reform. If the programme was to become more open those same traditionalist forces would soon undermine implementation in national government.

Reading this article leaves me thinking that a split in the ÖVP is probably nearer than it ever has been. My guess is that at the end of a programme review the Party will have added a little ‘liberal window dressing’ to its programme but will in reality be even more conservative and proscriptive.

Oh yes and that Neos dig. It’s quite funny reading all the different labels other parties assign to Neos – they are generally way off the mark. Haslauer’s ‘bourgeois upper class’ really did make me laugh. I’ve met a few Neos members and supporters, they have been an interesting cross section of people. As for myself (while I became ‘middle class’ through education and work) this ‘kid from a working class estate’ has never before been called ‘upper class’. That really did bring a smile to my face.

Neos opponents are going to have to come up with better descriptions if they want to seriously halt the rise of the liberal pink wave.

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Progressives overtake Populist alternatives in the polls for first time


Last weekend’s polls will probably mark the moment when Austrian politics finally shifted away from the Grand Coalition vs Populist Opposition stalemate of recent years.

For the first time the progressive alternatives are out polling the populist parties.

    Polls Av Now GE 2013 Change
Progressives Greens/NEOS 27.0% 17.38% 9.62%
Grand Coalition SPO/OVP 43.6% 50.81% -7.21%
Populists FPO/TS/BZO 26.8% 29.77% -2.97%

 

 

The gap, in the average figures from the most recent 5 polls, may only be 0.2% but the overall change in support since the General Election is a major shift towards a progressive alternative opposition.

Over the coming weeks I suspect we will see the progressives and populists swapping second place but don’t be surprised to see the progressive alternatives establish a clear lead over the populists by the end of 2015. A new political paradigm is establishing itself in Austria and party strategists across the spectrum are going to have to catch-up quick.

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Average national election poll rating based on the five most recent polls up until 12th April 2014:

  Polls Av Now GE 2013 Change
SPO 24.0% 26.82% -2.8%
OVP 19.6% 23.99% -4.4%
FPO 24.4% 20.51% 3.9%
Greens 13.2% 12.42% 0.8%
Team Stronach 1.2% 5.73% -4.5%
NEOS 13.8% 4.96% 8.8%
Others 3.8% 5.57% -1.8%

 

Sources:
Gallup/oe24 12-04-14
OGM/Kurier 06-04-14
Gallup/oe24 30-03-14
Gallup/oe24 23-03-14
meinungsraum/NEWS 20-03-14

 

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