Tag Archives: Lower Austria State Election 2013

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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Big three consolidate position in Feb polls


The SPÖ, ÖVP, and FPÖ continue to maintain their respective shares of the vote with political press coverage dominated by the State elections in Lower Austria and Kärnten due to be held on the 3rd March 2013 – I suspect that the results in these elections may however cause some shift in the polls come next month.

In the meantime the small upward trajectory of the conservative ÖVP is matched by an equal poll decline for the Greens – as I’ve discussed before, possibly reflecting small shifts in centre-right liberal voters between the two Parties.

Despite the high level of press coverage for Team Stronach they remain below the 11% rating scored when the Party was formed in September 2012.

The story of the other party currently in the Austrian Federal parliament, the BZÖ, remains one of slow death. It will take a miracle for what’s left of the Party – following defections to Team Stronach – to reach the 4% needed to secure seats in parliament.

Current average based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 26.6%, ÖVP: 24.4%, FPÖ 21.6%, Greens 12.4%, Team Stronach: 9.4%, BZÖ 2%, Others 3.6%

Percentage variation across last five polls:

SPÖ: 24%-28%, ÖVP: 23%-25%, FPÖ 21%-23%, Greens 11%-14%, Team Stronach: 8%-10%, BZÖ 1%-4%

Change since 1st January:

SPÖ: -0.4%, ÖVP: +1.6%, FPÖ +0.8%, Greens -1.6%, Team Stronach -1.2%, BZÖ +0.4%, Others +0.4%

 

Sources:

Karmasin/profil 23-02-13
Gallup/oe24 23-02-13
IMAS/Krone 13-02-13
Karmasin/Heute 08-02-13
Gallup/oe24 03-02-13

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Could the Conservatives ‘win’ the General Election in September?


Less than eighteen months ago the obituaries were being written for the ÖVP but it’s the conservatives who are winning the early rounds in Austria’s ‘super election year’*. Come the General Election in September the Party could be in first place if the current trend was to hold – assuming they don’t break from the governing coalition, force an early election and make a dash for first place while the going is good.

Current average based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 26.6%, ÖVP: 24.8%, FPÖ 21.2%, Greens 12.8%, Team Stronach: 8.4%, BZÖ 2%, Others 4.2%

Percentage variation across last five polls:

SPÖ: 24%-28%, ÖVP: 23%-26%, FPÖ 21%-22%, Greens 11%-14%, Team Stronach: 7%-10%, BZÖ 1%-4%

Change since 1st January:

SPÖ: -0.4%, ÖVP: +2%, FPÖ +0.4%, Greens -1.2%, Team Stronach -2.2%, BZÖ +0.4%, Others +1%

 

On an upward trajectory

OVP

The ÖVP were seen as clear winners of January’s Conscription referendum, which has galvanised their electoral machine and left the SPÖ internally finger pointing about their preparedness and poor tactics.

The news from Lower Austria, where the Party has an absolute majority in the State parliament, is looking positive with the most recent poll giving the Party 49% support (down from 54.4% at the last election). While an absolute majority may slip away by polling day on the 3rd March, it doesn’t look as though the new competitor, Team Stronach, is having the impact some commentators expected (currently 8%) and you won’t want to put serious money on Governor Pröll and the ÖVP machine failing to maintain their majority.

In the current debate about how good or bad the EU budget negotiations were for Austria, the ÖVP’s attacks on its senior coalition partners performance seems to sit on the same side of the fence as many voters – 44% say EU budget negotiations bad for Austria. Noticeably 49% of SPÖ believe the country is paying too much and 55% of ÖVP take the same view. However, Austrian votes remain strongly in favour of the EU and the move by the traditionally very pro-EU ÖVP to a mildly sceptical (though still pro) position, at a time when the SPÖ has shifted to a stronger pro-EU line, may have longer term disadvantages.

 

BUT…

On the same day as the largest of Austria’s States delivers it verdict on the ÖVP’s absolute majority, the party is likely to record a poor result in the southern State of Kärnten. Here if the polls are correct, the ÖVP may slip from third to fifth place.

The Party’s hopes of improved results in the State elections in Salzburg and Tyrol are by no means guaranteed and they are likely to gain little from the results of the Vienna referendum questions.

The SPÖ remain in first place despite the setbacks of the last few weeks. They have a real possibility of securing first place in the Kärnten State election – breaking the control of the state by the FPÖ’s sister party the FPK. The SPÖ has been polling most strongly in recent months when they have pushed clear positive agenda for instance the pro-EU stance, taking on the FPÖ head on, and their immediate poll ratings didn’t actually yo-yo after the conscription debate. In short, if the SPÖ can stay united and retain a centre-left position (despite the desire of some to shift further left) they are the party mostly likely to secure first place at the General Election.

Additionally, while Team Stronach is primarily in a battle for voters with the FPÖ, any significant improvement in its support is likely to cost the ÖVP a few percentage points. Moreover, as this article in Profil highlights, the ÖVP will also face the threat of losing support to Austria’s new liberal Centrist party NEOS. (The new party, along with the Pirates, could also pose a threat to the Green Party’s chances).

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Winning the election?

My guess is that the ÖVP won’t come out first at the General Election in September. They are, however, most likely to be one of the winners in forming the next coalition government:

Realistic coalition options based on current average polls:

ÖVP/Greens/SPÖ – 64.2%

TeamStronach/ÖVP/SPÖ – 59.8%

FPÖ/ TeamStronach/ÖVP – 54.4%

ÖVP/SPÖ – 51.4%

 

(*Super election year – National conscription referendum; State elections in Lower Austria, Kärnten, Salzburg, and Tyrol; Vienna referendum; Federal General Election).

Sources:

IMAS/Krone 13-02-13
Karmasin/Heute 08-02-13
Gallup/oe24 03-02-13
Karmasin/profil 26-01-13
Gallup/oe24 26-01-13

 

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If they thought 2012 was bad wait till 2013 hits Austria’s Far-Right FPÖ


After riding high at the beginning of 2012 the Far-Right FPÖ finished the year down 5.8% in comparison to their position last January. Last year started with the Party challenging the SPÖ (Social Democrats) for first place in the polls, now they sit firmly third and looking over their shoulder.

On the 3rd March 2013 two of this year’s four State elections look likely to deal the FPÖ further serious blows in advance of the General Election due in September. Recent polls in suggest:

–          In Lower Austria (the largest State in Austria) suggest that the Party will slip into fifth place with 8% (down 2.5%) – bad news for a Party that at the national level is the main opposition to the ruling Grand Coalition (SPÖ & conservative ÖVP).

–          Worst is to come in their Karnten stronghold. Here the State is currently run by the FPÖ’s sister party the FPK. As the election campaign kicks off in earnest the FPK has dropped 20% points and trails the SPÖ 33% to 25%.

The FPÖ has long been Austria’s party of protest. Poll figures regularly show the level of support for the Party in an opposition role higher than those wishing to see it in government. However, its protest vote role has now been usurped by one of the new parties, Team Stronach. This new rival is currently securing around 9% to 10% in the polls. If it were to advance further – and lead by Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach it certainly has the money to compete – it is likely to continue to draw a disproportionate level of support from defecting FPÖ voters.

Immigration (Islamaphobia), Crime, and Europe are all favourite areas of FPÖ focus. Despite these having been high profile topics in recent weeks – and the Party banging its usual drum – there has been no improvement in its poll ratings.

The only glimmer of light for the FPÖ is that voters from across the spectrum say they think the Party will do well this year. Such impressions usually lag behind events and events are about to declare loudly, it seems, that this is not going to be a good year for the FPÖ.

Politics is an unpredictable business but I would not recommend putting money of the FPÖ leaders’ view that the polls are wrong and they will finish the General Election in first place.

 

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