A quick observation from a country (Austria) in which 16-17yr olds will be voting in next Sundays General Election.
I’ve just read this BBC story on the latest debate in UK on voting age. It promoted me to comment on twitter:
Now I’ve talked to a lot of Austrian votes over the last few months about politics and who they will vote for. In all honesty the only people (excluding Party activists and not even many of them) who have actually sat down and read the party programmes were a small group of 16-17yr olds. They hold their own rather well in debate against old voters I’ve been told 🙂
For more info on Austrian General Election: Parties, trends, predictions
I’ve found myself having quite a few conversations recently with people about one of Austria’s newest political parties, Neos. Many of these chats have been in the coffeehouse (in keeping with the Viennese tradition of political discourse), in the pub or over dinner. Some, however, have been in my favourite public forum twitter.
One question that keeps arising is ‘What type of political party is Neos?’ In various interviews and articles the Party is described as drawing activists and support from the (conservative) ÖVP, the Greens, LIF (Liberal Forum). Its ‘pitch’ has also been described as a party for ‘homeless’ liberals, as well as other progressives and centrists.
As you can see from the picture below I was recently engaged in (another friendly) chat with @Vilinthril of the Austrian Pirates, where I disagreed with the idea that Neos was a ‘neoconservative’ party. To me Neos seem to include…
Both wings of the British Liberal Democrats, Social Greens, and Liberal Conservatives
The discussion was added too by @veitdengler (a Neos co-founder) who tweeted:
‘if we want a center party in Austria it will have to be a Big Tent. Hence #NEOS’
My comment with regard to the breadth of Neos membership/support was later retweeted by both @matstrolz (Neos party Leader) and @joseflentsch (Founding Board member of Neos). While retweets are not an automatic endorsement I rather assume that on this occasion they weren’t disagreeing with my impressions of their party.
One point I made to @Vilinthril was that if the Austrian Pirates see themselves on the progressive side of the political argument then energies ought to be put into building alliances and attacking the Right – there is plenty their to challenge. My point was added to by the @neos_eu twitter account:
Link to Neos website: http://neos.eu/
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.