Tag Archives: Austria’s Far-Right

When chaos, crisis and failed leadership are good news – the continued decline of Austria’s Far-Right


From Kärnten to Vienna and on to the State elections in Tirol and Salzburg, the situation for Austria’s Far-Right FPÖ is currently of failure, leading to crisis, followed by failure and eventually…..well the General Election in September certainly isn’t looking good for them.

First wave hits

After the State elections catastrophe in Kärnten and failure in Lower Austria the FPÖ has faced a wave of bad press coverage portraying a Party in crisis, it image as winners destroyed by corruption and extremism, its leader unable to bring order to the chaos and infighting. The reality of decline was further enhanced by an opinion poll in Vienna, the Party’s last stronghold, showing their vote significantly in decline.

Second wave hits

The only good news for FPÖ leader HC Strache, when the first waves of disaster hit, was that he appears to have managed to overt a direct challenge to his leadership. But this glimmer of light was more than offset by his unsuccessful attempt to remove the leader of the FPÖ (and political rival) in Lower Austria and a failed move to quickly force the FPÖ’s sister party in Kärnten, the FPK, back into the FPÖ. The aftermath left him looking weak, vulnerable to future challenges, and still with an ongoing crisis in Kärnten.

This week the crisis in Kärnten has deepened, and looks set to rumble on for some time to come, with:

  • Threats of the FPK splitting into two separate parties
  • Strache saying that he will consider ending co-operation with the FPK, with FPÖ then competing directly against them.
  •  The six FPK MPs in the State parliament splitting into two groups of 3. As club status requires 4 MP’s this means they will have no public funding and less influence in the parliament.

The effect of these splits, in one of the FPÖ’s former strongholds, could have a significant impact upon the Party come the general election for the Federal parliament in September.

The general decline in the FPÖ’s position and ongoing events in Kärnten are already having a knock on effect. The leader of the FPÖ in Tirol has called on the party to break now with the FPK. His group face their own State election in Tirol on the 28th April and polls are showing their vote down to around 8%. One week later the State of Salzburg will also hold its elections and the polls there show no sign of an FPÖ advance, despite both the SPÖ and ÖVP begin entangled in a government financial speculation scandal. In short the second wave looks likely to heap further chaos and crisis on the sinking FPÖ.

No Haider

Here’s an interesting article (in German but Google translate works well enough) in the Kurier looking at the weaknesses of the FPÖ’s Strache. It compares the late Jörg Haider and Heinz-Christian Strache – to summarise HC is no Haider.

Good News

So the good news from Austrian politics this week is that it’s all bad news for the FPÖ.

 

Related story: Austrian polls round-up

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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 🙂

 

 

 

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