In yesterdays Austrian General Election Neos, the new Centrist Liberal grouping, caused a sensation by securing seats in parliament at the first attempt and making history by being the first new party to achieve such a feat in the history of the Second Republic.
Polling research, here, suggests that NEOS have attracted voters in close to equal numbers from the Centre-Left and Centre-Right. The majority of NEOS voters had at the 2008 General Election voted for either the Centre-Right OVP or the Centre-Left Greens. Comparing the two sets of voters gives a split 52% to 48%.
Looking at all NEOS supporters voting behaviour at the 2008 General Election the figures are:
OVP (Centre-Right) – 38%
Greens (Centre-Left) – 35%
SPO (Centre-Left)/FPO & BZO (Right) – 12%
Non-voters – 15%
That only 15% had not voted at the previous General Elections suggests that NEOS is not a ‘party of protest’ but one that is starting to providing a new home to Liberals and Centrists who have historically been scattered across the political establishment.
The groupings voter base seems to reflect the range of activists found in NEOS – Economic Liberals, Christian Democrats, Centrists, realist Greens, Social Liberals.
The question, as the Party moves on from its first triumph, is can it take advantage of its appeal across the centre and build a powerful broad church or will it follow modern political patterns which tend towards Parties increasingly representing a narrow sectional interest?
To date it’s looking good for a new broad, strong, Austrian Liberal Centre.
Quick guide to the Parties:
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. Strongest General Election results in Vienna and Vorarlberg.
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.