Tag Archives: Frank Stronach

The General Election – Is it the Coalitions to lose?

The General Election – Is it the Coalitions to lose?

  • Coalition wants voters to concentrate on the battle for first place
  • Far and populist right looking for a message
  • What happened to the Green wave?
  • A 1% return on poster campaign & press coverage
  • New & smaller parties looking for a breakthrough


The Austrian parliament wrapped up its final session last Friday. The parties will now be focusing on their summer campaigns before the final push in September (polling takes place on the 29th September). So as we move into the next phase of election year here are the current national average ratings for the Parties based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 27.2%,  ÖVP: 24.4%,  FPÖ 19.0%,  Greens 15.0%,  Team Stronach: 8.0%,  BZÖ 2.6%,  Others 3.8%

The percentage variation across these five polls:

SPÖ: 26%-28%, ÖVP: 24%-25%, FPÖ 19%, Greens 14%-16%, Team Stronach: 8%, BZÖ 2%-4%

As has been the case for the last few months, the polls are of a similar view on the current share of the vote for the FPÖ and Team Stronach. They continue to differ most often on the position of the Greens and BZÖ.


Grand Coalition

SPÖ/ÖVP: They have the headline they probably most want at this stage, the equivalent of ‘It’s a two horse race’. Currently, their combined strength is generating press coverage suggesting another Grand Coalition is the most likely (only) outcome. As such they are able to concentrate their efforts and they hope the minds of the voters on the question of who will be Number One and therefore lead the next governing coalition.

I’m sure both sets of strategists will be hoping that they can keep the ‘battle for first place’ running as the main story of the election campaign. It would fit well with their shared underlying message – stick with what you know and focus on who will make the best senior partner.

It’s all a bit down beat, no great attempt to win a significantly larger share of the vote by taking risks. If the vote share of the two Coalition partners does increase it’s likely to be a result of getting their core voters out in an overall low turnout.

The one risk at the moment, which has been highlighted by amongst others the Mayor of Vienna, is that if the ‘battle for first place’ becomes so aggressive it works against both parties. I note that polling data suggests that a continuation of the coalition of two is not the most popular option amongst voters, the ‘Grand Old Parties’ will need to argue carefully.

SPÖ: It’s been a bumpy year so far for the party. With the exception of Kärnten, this year’s State elections and referendum were not good news stories. At one time their polling figures were close to falling below the 25%. However, they have remained first in the polls all year and their current average is back to the same level as it was in January. What will concern their strategists’ is that their poll variations are again becoming wider, will their ‘safe pair of hands’ approach carry them to success or will voters start to slip through their fingers?

ÖVP: In recent months their polling figures have been the most stable of all the parties but their previous 2% points gain since January has become 1.6%. Yes it’s a tiny variation but they, like the SPÖ, have been dominating the headlines, pushing hard with the idea of  it being the ‘Year of the ÖVP’, and that first place is a real possibility. Their strategists may start to wonder whether they are trying to build momentum or hold on till Election Day.

Looking for a message

Data suggests the parties of the far and populist right are finding it difficult to reach beyond the minority of voters who poll categorise as ‘feeling excluded, or pessimistic, or insular’. Worse these votes are amongst the most likely to stay at home come election time and the less negative inclined to switch allegiance.

FPÖ: It’s managed to stop is freefall and nudged its average poll ratings back up by 1%. It’s traditional core messages ‘immigration, crime, Europe’ have failed to help it make any headway and even attempts to move on to key voter issues have done little more than stabilise the situation. The one positive for the FPÖ is that they finally seem to have benefited from the decline in support for Team Stronach. Where once they talked of first place and 33% vote share, now they are talking about a place in government with 20% plus. The reality is that they will be happy if they can maintain third place in the coming election. The 2013 election has already been written off, their strategists are trying to maintain support in the high teens, hoping that Frank and his Team Stronach will disappear after the election and then the FPÖ will have a clear run for the next general election.

Team Stronach: The Party has lost 2.6% points in the polls since January. Bizarrely, the TS seems to have been asleep for the last month or so and is only now launching its summer campaign. Either party strategists didn’t want to ‘peak’ too soon or they have been rethinking their plans and re-organising after a disappointing Spring. The party’s policy launches have suffered from easy attack from opponents and journalists – TS policy cycle is Frank says…journalist question…Franks says detail being worked on by committee….policy detail launched… journalist question…Franks says further detail being worked on by committee. Frank himself doesn’t do well in open interviews. Interestingly, the new campaign response to all this seems to be an advertising campaign based upon images of Frank and single words…..’Social Frank’….’Authentic Frank’. Oddly, this might actually be Team Stronach best strategy in the circumstances.

BZÖ: Much of Team Stronach’s support seems to come from people who voted BZÖ at the last election but subsequently switched to the FPÖ before also abandoning them due to the ongoing scandals. The emergence of Team Stronach stripped almost their entire remaining vote away – they have regularly been at 1% in the polls. The party will be relieved to see that they, like the FPÖ, have finally benefited from the drop in TS support – up until now the ÖVP has tended to be the beneficiary of any drop in Team Stronach’s poll ratings. But it’s a very limited gain with the BZÖ’s average poll rating only going up 1% since January to 2.6%.

The Right: All three parties are desperately looking for not so much a winning message but just a message that works enough to keep them in the game. That game for the FPÖ and Team Stronach is to gain influence in next parliament and deliver a fatal blow to the other. For the BZÖ the game is survival and their latest move has been to try to reinvent themselves as a ‘modern ÖVP’. However, it’s only a few weeks ago that some members of the BZÖ were offering ‘political asylum’  to right-wingers in the FPÖ who had lost the latest of that party’s internal power struggles.

What happened to the Green wave?

Greens: After a successful round of State elections earlier in the year the political headlines were dominated by the idea of a ‘Green wave’ which would sweep the party into power as part of a three way coalition. The reality is that the average poll rating for the Greens has increased by only 1% since January (though their current 15% is 4.6% higher than at the last election).  What’s significant is that in some polls they have passed the 15% mark – previously seen by many commentators as the ceiling for Green support. The worry for Green strategists will be that in the last two months while some polls have had them as high as 16% others have had them polling around the 12%/13% mark.

A one percent return on poster campaign & press coverage?

Billboard posters are a significant aspect of an Austrian election campaign.  While they clearly have a value in reminding voters of a party and a key message, I have often wondered how much impact an average poster campaign has on increasing voter support.

In the last few weeks the BZÖ has undertaken a big poster campaign which has coincided with the launch of their election list and the resulting additional press coverage. The posters have been widespread and had a clear message. The result of these posters combined with added press coverage would appear to be a mere 1%. Maybe poster campaigns are more for motivating existing support rather than for changing campaign fortunes. If that was true Team Stronach (see above) and others may need to think a little more creatively. I suspect the PR experts will tell me I’m wrong but it’s a thought.

New & smaller parties looking for a breakthrough

Parties not represented in the outgoing parliament and who want to compete in the September General Election are currently collecting the 2600 signatures from across the country needed to enable them to stand.

Of the new and smaller parties likely to be fighting the election two appear to have a chance of breaking through the 4% needed to enter parliament – the Pirates and Neos. They or any other would be challengers will need to start making an impact soon if they are to achieve a breakthrough:

The Austrian Pirate Party: It’s not much but after months of registering 1% in the polls (in which their support is specifically recorded) a poll this week had them at 2%. I would not normally mention such a 1% to 2% change in one poll but it comes at a time when the Pirates have had a higher degree of press coverage and the Snowden affair has raised the profile of what would be seen by voters as issues relevant to the party. It suggests, no more than that, that if the headlines provide the right opening then the Pirates may be able to secure enough attention to reach the 4%.

Neos – Still my number one bet for a party to break into the next parliament. Steady press coverage (though usually limited to the ‘quality Press’), growth of interest in such activity as the Party’s Facebook site, and the positive response from those who become aware of this new party, all suggest the chance is there. However, Neos is yet to make waves in the polls – where their support is specifically recorded it registers only at the 2% level. The challenge in the next few weeks will be for the Party to raise public awareness to a level where it can convert interest into hard support.



And what about the voters?

A few things I’ve noted about vote attitudes in recent polls:

1)      Austrian voters appear to be very positive about democracy in general but far less impressed with current party policies.

2)      More than half of voters say they already know who they will vote for and just over 20% appear to be undecided. But Party loyalty is far lower than ever before, so strategists would be careful about assuming that ‘decides’ are ‘firm’ support.

3)      A third of electorate may stay at home come the election based on recent survey findings. This is particularly true of current FPÖ, Team Stronach, and BZÖ supporters, which could further deflate their vote shares.

4)      Voters are far more likely to be optimistic than pessimistic about the future.





Quick guide to the Parties listed above:

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, gradually developing finances to sustain electoral challenge.

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.


Sources: Market/DerStandard 07-07-13
OMG/Kurier 07-07-13
Gallup/oe 07-07-13
Gallup/oe 29-06-13
Oekonsult/Mein Bezirk 28-06-13

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Who’s benefiting from the fall of the Far-Right FPÖ? No it’s not Uncle Frank!

With new polls added to my running average figures, it’s clear that the fall of Far-Right FPÖ is continuing with their poll rating now down to 18.6%. They have dropped 2.2% points since January 2013 and when compared to their average rating in January 2012 they have fallen 8 percentage points.

Current average based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 26.6%, ÖVP: 24.2%, FPÖ 18.6%, Greens 13.8%, Team Stronach: 10.8%, BZÖ 2.6%, Others 3.4%

Percentage variation across last five polls:

SPÖ: 26%-27%, ÖVP: 23%-25%, FPÖ 18%-19%, Greens 13%-14%, Team Stronach: 9%-15%, BZÖ 1%-4%

So it’s the Stronach effect?

State elections in Lower Austria and Kärnten, combined with polling data, show that as well as attracting previous non-voters Team Stronach (TS) gains more support from former FPÖ supporters than it does from any other party. This suggests that TS both threatens any FPÖ recovery (by now being the main beneficiary of the protest vote) and hastening their further decline (tempting more of the anti-establishment vote away from the FPÖ).

It’s this evidence that has got many of the papers talking about the damage TS is doing to the FPÖ. But look at the average figures since the Austro-Canadian billionaire businessman, Frank Stronach, founded Team Stronach at the end of September 2012:


Sept ’12 Average

Jan’13 Average

Average Now

Diff Sept to Now

Team Stronach










So who is benefiting from FPÖ vs Stronach?

Currently the main beneficiary of the decline of the FPÖ and their battle for survival with TS has been the ÖVP (conservatives):


Sept ’12 Average

Jan’13 Average

Average Now

Diff Sept to Now

Team Stronach















I suspect that by the time of the General Election it will be TS that have most benefited from a continued decline of the FPÖ but it hasn’t happened yet. As for the ÖVP the addition of more right learning votes may help their vote share hold up if more liberal ÖVP switch to NEOS or the Greens – either of which is a real possibility.

And what’s been happening to the others since the arrival of Uncle Frank?


Sept ’12 Average

Jan’13 Average

Average Now

Diff Sept to Now





















Sources: IMAS/krone 06-04-13
Gallup/oe24 06-04-13
Karmasin/heute 04-04-13
Market/Standard 02-04-13
Hajek/ATV 31-03-13

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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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As Team Stronach takes to the pitch and Far-Right head for relegation

Frank Stronach, the Austro-Canadian billionaire and wan-a-be Chancellor of Austria, formally launched his new Party yesterday. With due modesty, Frank has named his Party ‘Team Stronach for Austria’. He declared at a packed press event that the Party’s launch will become a significant date in Austrian and by the way world history too.

Now the reference to world history and the name ‘Team Stronach for….’ did leave me wondering for a moment whether this is the start of a franchise operation? Frank is a very successful businessperson whose main abode still seems to be in Canada and who has interests in many countries. Could we in the future see Team Stronach for….Canada….Switzerland….UK…USA…or..(fill in the blank)?

Love him or loathe him, Frank Stronach is already making an impact. Polls indicate that up to 40% of voters would like to see him involved in the next government. Around 30% say that they would consider voting for his Party. While ‘Team Stronach’ seem to have the potential to scoop up the majority of the large numbers of ‘Other’ in the opinion polls they also look most likely to damage the poll ratings of the Far-Right FPÖ – whose support has been falling already due to scandals.

Two opinion polls yesterday showed support for the Far-Right FPÖ at below 20% and they must be concerned that Team Stronach may well overtake them in the coming months.

If you are interested in the potential impact of Team Stronach and the current developments in the polls, I wrote an analysis of current trends and their impact on the future shape of the government after next year’s general election here.

Below are updated polling data.

Average ratings across five recent opinion polls including Stronach Party

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 27.00% 29.3% -2.30%
OVP 22.20% 26% -3.80%
FPO 20.00% 17.5% 2.50%
Greens 13.60% 10.4% 3.20%
BZO 3.00% 10.7% -7.70%
Stronach 11.00% 0.0% 11.00%
Others 4.00% 6.1% -2.10%

Average ratings across five most recent recent opinion polls – change compared to January 2012

Polls Av Now Jan-12 Change
SPO 27.00% 28.60% -1.60%
OVP 22.60% 23.80% -1.20%
FPO 20.60% 26.60% -6.00%
Greens 13.20% 13.60% -0.40%
BZO 3.00% 4.80% -1.80%
Others 13.60% 2.60% 11.00%

Average ratings across five most recent recent opinion polls – change compared to General Election 2008

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 27.00% 29.3% -2.30%
OVP 22.60% 26% -3.40%
FPO 20.60% 17.5% 3.10%
Greens 13.20% 10.4% 2.80%
BZO 3.00% 10.7% -7.70%
Others 13.60% 6.1% 7.50%
Note 1: Pirates only appeared separately in Gallup polls
Note 2: Pirates/Stronach incorporated into Others in above table until they appear in all polls
Pirates 3.00% 0.0% 3.00%
Stronach 11.00% 0.0% 11.00%
Sources: Hajek/ATV 27-09-12
IMAS/Krone 27-09-12
Gallup/oe24 23-09-12
Karmasin/profil 22-09-12
OMG/Kurier 16-09-12

Change in support across the political spectrum since last election:

Polls GE 2008 Change
Far-Right FPO/BZO 23.00% 28.20% -5.20%
Right FPO/BZO/OVP/TS 56.20% 54.20% 2.00%
Centre-Right OVP/TS 33.20% 26.00% 7.20%
Coalition SPO/OVP 49.20% 55.30% -6.10%
Centre-Left SPO/Green 40.60% 39.70% 0.90%

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The conservative leader, the billionaire and a railway company

Last Monday Michael Spindelegger (leader of the conservative ÖVP) suggested in a TV interview something along the lines of…’If Frank Stronach wants to help the country he should buy the ÖBB national railway company and turn round its fortunes, instead of spending his money/time on his own new political party’.

For those who have not been following events here in Austria, Frank Stronach is an Austro-Canadian billionaire who is about to launch a new Austrian political party. To date he has managed to recruit 4 existing members of parliament to his new enterprise – three from the right and one from the left of the political spectrum. Three was the important first number as this will allow him to have his party nominated for the next general election, in 2013, without having to gather thousands of signatures from the general public. His next target is to reach five members in the existing parliament. If he can get one more MP then his new party will potentially get access to state funding (not that he needs the money) and more importantly a higher profile in the election as it will be entitled to greater media coverage.

Anyway, back to the story of the suggestion made by Michael Spindelegger, leader of the conservative ÖVP and junior partner in the government coalition. The ÖBB national railway company by the way, I understand, costs the Austrian taxpayer around 7 billion euro’s a year.

No one took the suggestion seriously – though Spindelegger claimed to be in earnest – and the press has had fun reporting the story over the last few days. However, I’ve just read here on the oe24 website that Stronach’s spokesperson has confirmed that he has sent word via email that he takes the idea seriously and will present his ideas on restoring the fortunes of ÖBB when he is next in Austria.

Ermm…yes that last bit. The leader of the yet to be named party, who has the declared ambition of being the next Chancellor (for British readers the equivalent to Prime Minister) still has his main residence it seems in Canada. Stronach, 80, moved to Canada when he was 21 years old and is a self-made billionaire.

Well it will be interesting to see if something comes of this ÖBB discussion. Even if he really would take it on and the ÖVP would definitely like to see it sold, I’m not sure the SPÖ (Social Democrat) senior partner in the government coalition would have much sympathy with such proposals. Moreover, I very much doubt that Stronach would embrace the other part of Spindelegger’s suggestion and give up on his newfound political career.

One final question remains about the possible success of Stronach’s new political venture. Is a political party more like a business or a football club? Mr S is clearly a successful businessperson. He has also been in his time the Chair and major investor in two Austrian football clubs. In the case of my own club, Austria Wien, it’s difficult to find a fan that has a good thing to say about his period at the club and it has taken the club some time to recover. I haven’t taken a poll amongst the Viola faithful but doubt that his new party would secure many votes. On the other hand, the new party will need to adopt a colour and blue, black, red, green, and yellow are all taken. Now if the Stronach Party was to adopt Violet well a few Austria fans might…..

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How many Liberal Parties can you have?

A liberal faction has split from the Austrian Pirates Party and formed a new party the Real Democrats Austria (RDO) . The split comes at a time when the Pirates have fallen in the polls from the low teens at the beginning of summer down to 2% in the latest (Gallup) poll out this week.

This latest addition to the growing number of new parties joining the Austrian political scene – I count at least five this year – describes themselves as:

  • Our policy direction is clearly socially liberal, liberal civic and sustainable. Liberal, in the very word form.

Later this month the Österreich Spricht  (Austria Speaks) citizens’ initiative will be launching a political party which will:

  •  Target ‘homeless Liberals’
  • Be a ‘liberal political party’
  • New party drawing in support from those with formerly ‘green, black, red and Liberal‘ backgrounds.
  • Believes it can secure 10% of the popular vote at next general election in 2013

Austria ready has a Liberal party, Liberal Forum (LIF) who are members of the ELDR. Not currently represented in the national parliament the Party:

  •  Will stand in the 2013 election either as a single party or part of a likeminded platform
  • Their party leader in answer to the question, during an interview with neuwal.com, of where the LIF stands on the political spectrum where 0 (right) and 10 (left) replied that people probably see them as 7 (left) but they’d like to be seen as more 5 (middle).

On the Obama v Romney question (see my blog post) the response was Obama.

We also have a fourth Liberal party, JuLis. This group of Young Liberals broke away from LIF back in 2009. They are:

  •  An independent political party and faction Austrian Students Union
  • They concentrate their efforts on Student politics
  • Although their core principles are a broad Liberal statement their emphasis on the free market would probably align them more within the ‘Orange Book’ wing of the Lib Dem’s in the UK.

So that’s at least four overtly ‘Liberal’ groupings, of various shades, competing for Liberal and progressive votes and none of them in the current national parliament of Austria. Within that parliament ‘Liberal’ voters have primarily given their support and/or lent their vote to the Greens (social Liberals) & the conservative ÖVP (economic Liberals) and to a lesser extent the Social Democrats – SPÖ (social Liberals) & right-wing BZÖ (economic Liberals). Polling suggests many of these voters might be willing to switch but it’s going to be a noisy, crowded market place.

Finally there is of course one other potentially ‘liberal vote’ seeking party about to be launched, the yet to be named party of Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach. He will have the money and the platform. The question remains is his Party to be a Liberal or Conservative learning grouping?

The neuwal.com site is running a series of summer interviews with representatives of many of Austria’s smaller parties. Interesting further reading here.



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So not Liberal then…but maybe a terminator?

The not yet launched party of Austro-Canadian millionaire Frank Stronach is up at 10% in this weekend’s Gallup Austria poll but when we see the Party’s programme, later this month, will it be a Liberal or Conservative leaning Party?

One clue seems to come from Frank Stronach’s reported choice for the American Presidential election – Mitt Romney. As you’d be hard pressed to find many Liberal’s in the current Republican Party it would suggest that the new Stronach Party may be a more Conservative rather than Liberal orientated addition to the Austrian Political spectrum.

It also seems that Frank would be interested in persuading the former Governor of California Arnie Schwarzenegger to join him and his new grouping – though he says he hasn’t yet spoken to him about the idea.

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