Mapping the changes in the inter-party battlegrounds of Austrian politics


I’ve had a go at mapping the inter-party struggles that currently define the world of Austrian politics and the shifts in the battlegrounds since the general election. Think it’s a reasonable depiction:

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Austrian General Election Result 2013 – % share of vote

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Austrian national poll averages 1st May 2014 – % share

The growth of the FPÖ has come from the collapse in support for other Populist parties Team Stronach (TS) and the BZÖ. They are failing to advance against either of the Grand Coalition ruling parties (the Social Democrat, SPÖ, or the conservative ÖVP) despite their current problems.

The growth in support for NEOS (the Liberal Centrists) has seen them pushing, as they did in the General Election, primarily against the ÖVP and Greens. But the battle grounds with the SPÖ are opening up and will be particularly interesting come the 2015 State election in Vienna.

Despite the growth of NEOS, the Greens have made a small advance since the General Election. The battle grounds with the SPÖ will become even more important if NEOS continue to take the centre ground on the left as well as the right. However, a leftward move might risk not just battles grounds with the Pinks but also those with the ÖVP.

The SPÖ faces a continued fight with the FPÖ for the title of ‘Workers Party’. This looks like it will be one of the major battlefield for both parties. The FPÖ is stuck; it’s trying to widen its appeal and believes it can make further advances in this area. The SPÖ seems to want to make a fight of it and could recapture lost ground with the right strategy.  If they fail red squares will be turning blue. But they will also have to address the pressure from both the Greens and the Pinks; it’s going to be a difficult balancing act. Oh yes, those orange squares on the left. Not much of a threat now but move to far in fighting the FPÖ or the centre and the Left might finally find the breathing space they’ve been looking for.

Austrian politics may get stuck at times but its rarely boring.

 

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Populist EU sceptics drop back in Austrian polls


With polling day getting closer and the Parties moving into the main phase of their EU campaigns, it seems a good moment to take a look at who is on the up and who is struggling in the election campaign here in Austria.

Good news for pro-EU campaign

Since my last blog post on the EU election the pro-EU parties SPÖ/ÖVP/Grünen/NEOS have advanced slightly and now have a combined figure of 74.8% (+0.8%). While the Populist EU sceptics FPÖ/BZÖ/REKOS combined total has dropped to 21.6% (-1%).

Currently parties with a broadly pro-EU position are up +11% against the anti-EU camp in comparison to 2009.

At the last election the EU sceptic camp included the FPÖ, BZÖ, List Martin. Their combined support was 34.96%. So at this stage in the campaign the current sceptic flag wavers are down 13.36%.

Campaign performances so far

The Parties have been on the EU election campaign trail since the beginning of the year. A look at the changes in average polling figures between the beginning of January and the 1st May provides some insight into how each of the Party is doing.

Advancing in the polls

NEOS

The 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 13.6%. Since January they have seen their EU poll figures improve by +4%.

SPÖ

The larger of the two parties that form the ruling ‘Grand Coalition’, the Social Democrats are currently polling at the same figure as they achieved at the last EU election.  They are also only one of three election lists to improve its ratings since January, up 2%.

Europa Anders

This list is an electoral alliance of the Communist Party, the Pirates and Change. As they have often been included in ‘others’ in the polls it’s a little bit more difficult to track their performance. In the 1st May Gallup poll they achieved their highest ever figure of 3%. They appear to have advanced between 1.5% & 2% since the alliance was formed.

(Note: Back in January I was estimating the Pirates support at around 2% and the Communists at 1%.)

 

Stuck in the polls

ÖVP

The junior party in the ruling ‘Grand Coalition’, the conservative People’s Party topped the poll at the last EU election. Their current average rating of 24.6% is down 5.4% on that election result. Since January their polling average has remained unchanged. The only good news for the Party is that they are polling 4% higher in the EU polls than the national polls.

Grünen

The Greens have remained unchanged in the polls when compared to January. However, then they held fourth position which they’ve now relinquished to NEOS.

BZÖ

This FPÖ lite party fell out of the national parliament back in September. Their campaign to date has had no impact on the polls and they remain at little over 1%.

REKOS

The Reform Conservatives like the BZÖ remain an ‘also run’, stuck on 1%.

 

Dropping points

FPÖ

Although up by 6% on the last EU election (when the List Martin stole the anti-government show) the FPÖ has seen its average poll rating slip (-3%) compared to its New Year performance.

 

Off the radar

EUSTOP

This ‘lock the borders and throw away the key’ grouping just doesn’t register in this election and isn’t going to provide any surprises.

 

The winners will be….

Let’s remember the old saying ‘A week is a long time in politics’. Much could happen between now and the 25th May. However, despite the campaign launches, the posters on every corner and the hours of TV coverage, to date not much has changed for most of those campaigning.

My guesses for election night:

It looks like the FPÖ will be able to claim ‘victory’ with an increased share of the vote but in fact will have shown that their decline and fall, like a melting glacier, is slow but real.

Despite the fact they will suffer the biggest loss of votes, the ÖVP will probably be happy to have polled ahead of the FPÖ.

Expected to hear the SPÖ saying ‘First is first’ as they take first spot with the same share of the vote they achieved in 2009. To be fair, in the current climate this will be a real win and achievement for the Party.

The Greens will take comfort in a modest gain in their share of the vote but will be concerned that they are losing ground to NEOS and not making significant inroads into the support of the ‘Grand Coalition’  at a time when both parties look vulnerable.

The big election winners will be NEOS with somewhere between 13% and 15% of the vote. A major advance for a Party that is only a year and a half old, which gained just under 5% at the first attempt to secure seats in the national parliament, and who is still building its organisation.

 

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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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Austrian General Election – Voters switched support but not always in ways you might expect!


Looking at the switch of voters between the parties in the Austrian General Election reveals surprising results. For example:

  • The advance of the FPO was in part limited by a net switch of voters to the Greens.
  • The switch of voters between the SPO and OVP produce a zero net impact.

I’ve been using the Der Standard interactive election graphic to look at SORA voting analysis produced for ORF. It tracks changes in voting behaviour between the 2008 and 2013 election.

I’ve taken the figures from the study and looked at the net movement of voters between each party.

SPÖ

Although they finished the election in first place, the SPÖ saw their share of the vote once more decline. A campaign aimed at maximising their core voter turnout resulted in the retention of 72% of 2008 supporters.

Net voter movements highlights the key problem for the party, the decision of a significant number of previous SPÖ voters not to vote – 173,000 didn’t cast a vote, while only an additional 25,000 former non-voters gave their support to the party this time round.

The switch of voters between the SPÖ and ÖVP produce a zero net impact. Losses to (Populist-Right) Team Stronach were almost balanced off by gains from the (Far-Right) BZÖ.

Net loss of votes 
SPO
Didn’t Vote 148,000
Team  Stronach 48,000
NEOS 23,000
Greens 20,000
FPO 11,000
OVP 0
Net gain of votes
SPO
BZO 40,000
Others 10,000
OVP 0

ÖVP

For the ÖVP the good news stories in the election campaign were second place and retention of 74% of previous 2008 supporters. However, this was an election which saw their share of the vote slip further and the party fail to secure a net positive movement of voters from any of its competitors.

On the Right the ÖVP lost support primarily to Team Stronach while even larger numbers of voters switch to the Centre and Centre-Left.

Net loss of votes 
OVP
NEOS 61,000
Didn’t Vote 52,000
Team Stronach 42,000
Greens 33,000
FPO 4,000
BZO 4,000
SPO 0
Net gain of votes
OVP
Others 26,000
SPO 0

FPÖ

The advance of the FPÖ was almost exclusively achieved by the party attracting approximately a third of 2008 BZÖ voters. They also made small net gains from minor parties voters, the SPÖ and ÖVP.

However, they retained only 69% of their 2008 support and saw net losses to the (Populist-Right) Team Stronach, as well as net losses to the (Centre-Left) Greens and (Centrist-Liberal) NEOS.

Net loss of votes 
FPO
Team Stronach 41,000
Didn’t Vote 27,000
Greens 21,000
NEOS 19,000
Net gain of votes
FPO
BZO 155,000
Others 36,000
SPO 11,000
OVP 4,000

Grünen

The Grünen were able to retain only 63% of their 2008 support with some 57,000 voters switching to the new Centrist Liberal option, NEOS.

However, their overall shares of the vote increased with the party taking 50,000 (net) votes away from the (Far- Right) BZÖ and FPÖ, as well as making progress on the Left with a net movement of 20,000 from the (Centre-Left) SPÖ.

Net loss of votes 
FPO
Team Stronach 41,000
Didn’t Vote 27,000
Greens 21,000
NEOS 19,000
Net gain of votes
FPO
BZO 155,000
Others 36,000
SPO 11,000
OVP 4,000

BZÖ

As predicted by the polls over the last few years, the BZÖ failed to reach the 4% hurdle and crashed out of parliament. They saw swathes of former votes switch to their Far- Right rivals the FPÖ and to a lesser degree former supporters moved to (Populist-Right) Team Stronach. They suffered smaller losses to the (Centre-Left) SPÖ and Greens, as well as to (Centrist Liberal) NEOS.

The net loss of votes to the senior out-going coalition partner sets another unwanted record for the BZÖ – the only party in the former parliament to suffer a net loss of support to the SPÖ.

The only success for the party came in securing small net gains in 2008 voters from ‘Others’ and the junior out-going coalition partner, the (conservative) ÖVP.

Net loss of votes 
BZO
FPO 155,000
Team Stronach 68,000
Didn’t Vote 61,000
SPO 40,000
Greens 30,000
NEOS 21,000
Net gain of votes
BZO
Others 11,000
OVP 4,000

Team Stronach

Team Stronach, formed in September 2012, had secured seats in the last parliament through MP defections.

The election campaign saw the Populist-Right party secure 109,000 votes from amongst 2008 voters who had previously supported the (Far- Right) BZÖ and FPÖ. Team Stronach’s second highest support came from former voters of the (Centre-Left) SPÖ.

The party was the most effective at persuading 2008 non-voters to come out and give their support. However, it was less effective at securing support from those who had previously voted ‘Other’.

Net loss of votes 
Team Stronach
Not formed in 2008
Net gain of votes
Team Stronach
BZO 68,000
SPO 48,000
OVP 42,000
FPO 41,000
Didn’t Vote 29,000
Others 28,000
Greens 14,000

NEOS

The party was formed in October 2012. NEOS achieved election history by being the first new party to enter parliament at the first attempt (without already having seats in parliament).

NEOS provided a new Centrist Liberals alternative and secured its place in parliament by securing support from both Right and Left 2008 voters. In particular, they were effective at attracting support from the (conservative) ÖVP and the (Centre-Left) Greens.

Their success in securing support from 2008 ‘Others’ and ‘Didn’t Vote’ in part reflects support from former Liberal Forum (LIF) votes – NEOS ran on a joint platform with the LIF and the two parties are now planning to merge.

Net loss of votes 
NEOS
Not formed in 2008
Net gain of votes
NEOS
OVP 61,000
Greens 57,000
Others 35,000
Didn’t Vote 24,000
SPO 23,000
BZO 21,000
FPO 19,000

A sad note

The most ‘loyal’ of all voters in the election were the ‘Didn’t Vote’ category. Around 85% did not go and cast their vote again in 2013.

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Austria – General Election final results and first post election poll


The final result of the General Election was confirmed last Thursday with the addition of votes of those living abroad making only minor changes to the parties percentages and leaving the share of seats unchanged.

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New parliament, share of seats with change shown in brackets:

SPÖ 52 (-4); ÖVP 47 (-5); FPÖ 40 (+8); Grüne 24 (+4); Team Stronach 11 (+6); NEOS 9 (+9)

(Note: BZO dropped out of the parliament after failing to reach the 4% threshold)

A parliamentary majority requires 92 of the 183 seats.

IMG_8418

General Election 2013 result – share of the vote with change since 2008 election in brackets:

SPÖ 26.82% (-2.48%); ÖVP 23.99% (-2.01%); FPÖ 20.51% (+3.01%); Grüne 12.42% (+2.02%); Team Stronach 5.57% (n/a); NEOS 4.96% (n/a); BZÖ 3.53% (-7.17%); Others 2.2% (-3.9%)

First poll since the election, Gallup/oe24, was published last Friday and see NEOS and the SPÖ received a post election boost:

SPÖ 28% (+1.2%); ÖVP 23% (-1%); FPÖ 21% (+0.5%); Grüne 13% (+0.6%); NEOS 7% (+2%); Team Stronach 4% (-1.7); Others 4% (-1.6%)

(Note: Figures have been rounded up)

 

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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