I’ve been having a look at the SORA Institute EP voter analysis in der Standard. I was curious to see how the battle of Austria’s political alternatives played out in the EP2014 election.
As I’ve described in previous posts, although they may fight amongst themselves, Austrian politics currently breaks down into three camps. In one corner we have the traditional mainstream comprising the governing Grand Coalition parties (Social Democrat – SPÖ – and conservative – ÖVP). The second grouping is the far-right populists (in recent times the FPÖ has succeeded in re-establishing itself as the dominant player surrounded by fringe parties). While in the third corner are the new progressives alternatives (the Centre left – Greens have been joined in this camp by the Liberal Centrist – NEOS).
The headline result of the election was the win for the pro-EU camp comprising the parties of both the traditional mainstream and progressive alternatives – their combined vote securing 73.7%. While the anti-EU populist camp fell back (-10.8%) achieving 24.1% support.
For the FPÖ the election was a significant chance to rock the system by achieving first spot in the polls. In this election they no longer faced the List Martin whose more moderate anti-EU position had secure it 17.67% in 2009 and the other populist parties offered little competition. The prize within its grasp was a clear run at gathering up the 35% who had previously supported the anti-EU camp. When the dust settled it had only secured 19.7%.
This relatively poor FPÖ got me wondering. Hence time spent looking at the SORA figures.
Far-right populists’ vs the traditional mainstream
The first point of interest is the battle between the far-right populists and the traditional mainstream. Looking a net movement of voters between the parties makes interesting reading. Although the traditional mainstream managed to secure first and second in the election, critics in both parties have raised concerns about the performance. However, the governing coalition did manage to make net gains (77K) against the Euro-sceptic camp. A significant switch of List Martin votes helped the traditional mainstream offset losses from far-right populists and the progressives. Moreover while the FPÖ attracted significant numbers of former List Martin and BZO voters, they only secured a combined net gain of 25,000 from the coalition.
Progressive alternatives vs Far-right populists
The progressive alternatives proved much more successful at damaging the traditional mainstream, persuading around 109,000 former SPÖ/ÖVP (28k/74K) voters to switch. They also secured even greater support from the anti-EU populist camp taking approximately 144,000 votes – ex-Martin 100,000; ex-FPÖ 23,000; BZÖ 21,000.
Polls’ looking at the pro/anti EU split show Austrian opinion remains consistent at around the 67/33. The success of the pro-EU ‘progressive alternatives’ in the election is probably therefore a stronger indication of domestic trends than a ringing endorsement of the EU.
Battle of Austria’s political alternatives
So in the battle of the alternatives it’s the Grünen and NEOS who appear to be winning. The FPÖ numbers may have risen but they have simply wrestled control of a populist camp with at best a volatile base or even worse, for the FPÖ’s longer term future, a diminishing pool of loyal supporters.
In the meantime, the traditional mainstream does not appear ready to give-up just yet.