Tag Archives: Stronach

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 🙂

 

 

 

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

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%

1 Comment

Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

A year from now a new coalition government will begin to form


Now the final lap beginnings, a year from now the leaders of the Parties will have line-up on TV to hear the formal declaration of the Austrian general election result. A few days later the votes of citizens living overseas will have been added and the final tally of seats confirmed for the new Parliament. (Unless of course the governing coalition decides to divorce, a course of action which is in neither parties interest as they have potential more to gain by sticking it out).

I expect to be blogging this time next year about how the election campaign went for each of the parties and anticipating the final outcome of the on-going negotiations to form a new governing coalition. With a few exceptions the election result in Austria, since the war, has been about determining the relative strength of the two main parties within a Grand Coalition government. So set is this pattern that certain ministries are effectively Black (ÖVP – conservative) or Red (SPÖ – Social Democrats), whilst the post of Chancellor (equivalent of British Prime Minister) and control of some ministries is determined by the election result.

As we go into this election campaign year it looks increasingly likely that the next government will be formed by at least three parties. My running average of the last five polls (see table 1) has the SPÖ/ ÖVP governing coalition with just 50% of the vote between them and both parties share of the vote down since January 2012. The picture is just as bad for the two Far-Right parties FPÖ and BZÖ which have both seen their poll rating drop over the same period. The big winners have been ‘Others’ with, in particular, ‘Team Stronach’ (who formally launch later this week) attracting voters (see table 2).

Table 1: Average of last five polls & change since January 2012

Polls Av Now Jan-12 Change
SPO 27.60% 28.60% -1.00%
OVP 22.40% 23.80% -1.40%
FPO 21.00% 26.60% -5.60%
Greens 13.60% 13.60% 0.00%
BZO 2.40% 4.80% -2.40%
Others 13.00% 2.60% 10.40%
Sources: Gallup/oe24 23-09-12
Karmasin/profil 22-09-12
OMG/Kurier 16-09-12
Gallup 09-09-12
Gallup 01-09-12

 

Table 2: Average ratings across five recent opinion polls including ‘Team Stronach’ Party

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 28.00% 29.3% -1.30%
OVP 22.20% 26% -3.80%
FPO 20.60% 17.5% 3.10%
Greens 14.20% 10.4% 3.80%
BZO 2.20% 10.7% -8.50%
Stronach 8.80% 0.0% 8.80%
Others 4.00% 6.1% -2.10%

In the last year the story of the polls has changed. We’ve had the challenge of the FPÖ and the decline/collapse of the ÖVP – linked in particular to historical issues of corruption. We’ve had the FPÖ, extremism, corruption and the softness of their vote. We’ve had the potential for new parties (20% want new party when asked). Now we have the arrival of new parties and the corruption questions facing the old parties (excluding the Greens – current slogan ‘100% Bio, 0% Corrupt’).

When politics here is not dominated by events in the parliamentary committee investigating corruption, the other game for politicians is who will be my partner(s) in a future coalition. Here are the mostly likely combinations and their problems:

SPÖ/ ÖVP

Potential: Despite being a coalition of left & right this is also the ‘traditional’ combination which knows how to function together and can balance the demands of urban (SPÖ) & rural voters (ÖVP) respectively.

Negatives: Falling out of love with each other. Majority of voters want to see them work more effectively together but a feeling exists that they can’t move the country forward together. Their core vested interests make tackling some of the big issues difficult if not impossible.

SPÖ/Green

Potential: Although a lot of dislike between party activists, the experience of working together in the governing Vienna State coalition has been seen by many as a success that could be repeated at national level. Talk of such a coalition seems to have contributed to the Greens maintaining/improving their poll ratings.

Negatives: Most importantly the polls show no evidence of this alliance gaining a majority in the next parliament. Potential advance of the Greens would be at the expense of SPÖ/ÖVP votes which makes them a threat as well as a potential partner. While both SPÖ & Greens are ‘left of centre’ there are real political and cultural differences that could undermine a potential/actual coalition.

SPÖ/ ÖVP/Green

Potential: This formation is not as odd as it first looks. ÖVP and Greens have worked together at State level and there is potential for achieving a working agreement between the three parties. This would also represent a coalition of three pro-European parties in the current parliament.

Negatives: Potential advance of the Greens would be at the expense of SPÖ/ÖVP votes which makes them a threat as well as a potential partner. ÖVP strategy currently is to aggressively attack the Greens who themselves are keen to highlight their differences with the ÖVP, all of which will complicate potential future discussions.

SPÖ/ ÖVP/Team Stronach

Potential: If ‘Team Stronach’ actually are economically more liberal there could be enough common ground between the three parties to agree a programme of reforms that many in the current government would argue are necessary. Stronach’s current statements about wanting a reformed Europe and out of/changed Euro seem to be sufficiently vague at present not to create an anti-European obstacle.

Negatives: Stronach himself has said that he wants to be the next Chancellor. The Austro-Canadian billionaire businessman has something of a reputation amongst opponents for wanting to ‘lead’ and not being much of a ‘team player. It’s difficult to see the other two parties being willing to concede this demand even if he had the largest faction. Stronach appears to favour a more North American approach to economic issues and this may not sit well even with the more ‘liberal’ wing of the conservative ÖVP.

ÖVP/Team Stronach/FPÖ

Potential: Right of centre coalition would on paper have more in common than the current grand coalition. They’d probably be able to build a working programme with an odd mix of ‘liberal’ and protectionist economic policy combined with a more conservative social policy than the current government.

Negatives: This would be a pro/lukewarm/anti European coalition. A liberal/conservative/protectionist alliance in the economic field. The respective party leaders of Team Stronach and the FPÖ would find it difficult (I suspect) to accept the other as Chancellor and the leader of the ÖVP would find leading a government with the other two in the wings tricky (if they can’t lead I would not be surprised to see Stronach and Strache avoiding government posts and heckling from the sidelines).

ÖVP/FPÖ

Potential: Right of centre coalition would have enough common ground to form a working programme which would include privatisation and a more nationalistic, conservative approach to social/economic issues. Talk of such an alliance strengthens the ability of the ÖVP to keep hold of it more right leaning support and lends respectability to the Far-Right FPÖ. The threat of a deal with the FPÖ is one of the key negotiating cards the ÖVP has in dealing with the SPÖ if they find themselves in Grand Coalition talks again, so keeping the option open has a value in itself.

Negatives: The regular reminders of the FPÖ’s more unacceptable views strengthen the hand of those in the ÖVP who believe such a coalition is a step too far. We’ve been here before with an ÖVP/ FPÖ coalition government. The corruption scandals from that time still dominate the political landscape and are/have damaged each party (but particularly the ÖVP). Talk of such a renewed alliance is ammunition to their opponents. The additional problem for the ÖVP is that such talk stops it drawing centrist and liberal votes back into its camp and runs risk of driving those still remaining into the arms of other parties. The final problem with this scenario is that with the FPÖ’s vote having declined from its opinion poll highs and vulnerable to further loss of support ‘Team Stronach’, the two parties may not be able to muster sufficient numbers for governing together to be an option.

Note on others

The above scenarios could further be complicated if the Pirate Party, one of the Liberal groupings or another minor/new faction can reach the 4% level needed to enter parliament. The only other party in the current parliament, the BZÖ, looks likely to drop out at the next elections as it now consistently only commands around 2%-3% support in the polls.

Table 3: Average ratings across five recent opinion polls

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 27.60% 29.3% -1.70%
OVP 22.40% 26% -3.60%
FPO 21.00% 17.5% 3.50%
Greens 13.60% 10.4% 3.20%
BZO 2.40% 10.7% -8.30%
Others 13.00% 6.1% 6.90%
Note 1: Pirates only appeared separately in Gallup polls
Note 2: Stronach only apears in Gallup, Karmasin & OMG polls
Note 3: Pirates/Stronach incorporated into Others in above table until they appear in all polls
Pirates 3.00% 0.0% 3.00%
Stronach 8.80% 0.0% 8.80%

 

Charge in support across the political spectrum since last election:

Polls GE 2008 Change
Far-Right FPO/BZO 23.40% 28.20% -4.80%
Right FPO/BZO/OVP 45.80% 54.20% -8.40%
Coalition SPO/OVP 50.00% 55.30% -5.30%
Centre-Left SPO/Green 41.20% 39.70% 1.50%

2 Comments

Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

Voters continue to abandon Far-Right


In my last blog post looking at Austrian voting intentions I asked the question as to whether the summer polls indicated the beginning of the end for the Far-Right parties in Austria.

Well the question remains open but the most recent polls continue to show the FPÖ now back in third place with their vote further declining from the high watermark achieved earlier this year and the BZÖ heading for the dustbin of political history.

Polls Av Now Jan-12 Change
SPO 28.80% 28.60% 0.20%
OVP 22.20% 23.80% -1.60%
FPO 20.40% 26.60% -6.20%
Greens 14.20% 13.60% 0.60%
BZO 2.60% 4.80% -2.20%
Others 11.60% 2.60% 9.00%

 

The yet to be launched party of Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach continues to rise in the polls with the last Gallup poll giving his party 10%. My average of polls in which his party is specifically included confirms this upward trend and now puts them above the Austrian Pirate Party for the first time. The Pirates, after making an initial splash with some polls showing them in the low teens, are now in serious decline with the last Gallup poll giving them only 2% support.

Pirates 4.20%
Stronach 7.60%

 

Stronach and Österreich Spricht  (Austria Speaks citizens’ initiative) are both due to launch political parties this month and with other groupings likely to come forward the many anti-establishment/alternative/change voters are going to have far more choice. Polling suggests that Stronach’s grouping in particular has the potential to strip away significant numbers from the scandal ridden FPÖ.

The next three months will set the battlegrounds for next year’s general election. It’s going to be a fascinating time for observers of the political scene here in Austria. For many in Austrian political parties they may be about to understand why the Chinese saying ‘May you live in interesting times’ is not generally considered a complement.

 

Average ratings across five recent opinion   polls
Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 28.80% 29.3% -0.50%
OVP 22.20% 26% -3.80%
FPO 20.40% 17.5% 2.90%
Greens 14.20% 10.4% 3.80%
BZO 2.60% 10.7% -8.10%
Others 11.60% 6.1% 5.50%
Note 1: Pirates only   appeared separately in Gallup polls
Note 2: Stronach only   apears in Gallup & Karmasin polls
Note 3: Pirates/Stronach   incorporated into Others in above table until they appear in all polls

 

Sources: Gallup   01-09-12
Market/Standard 31-08-12
Gallup 25-08-12
Karmasin/Profil 25-08-12
Gallup 18-08-12

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

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…..

Leave a comment

Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics

The beginning of the end for the Far-Right?


It’s been a summer of scandals and they have taken a heavy toll on the opinion poll ratings of Austria’s main Far-Right party the FPÖ.

Even as recently as May this year the main political story here in Austria remained, for many political commentators, the potential of the FPÖ to become the largest party following the general election in 2013. However, as I’ve previously blogged, early summer polling was showing the FPÖ not challenging for first but fighting to retain second place in the opinion polls. Moreover, polling data was again highlighting to ‘softness’ of a significant percentage of their support.

Now, as the summer draws to a close, the FPÖ has slipped into third place behind the (conservative) ÖVP in my running average of the last five polls. Since January the FPÖ has slipped back 5.60% and the current trajectory is firmly downwards. The decline in support has been linked to a number of scandals which are likely to rumble on for some time.

But this decline in support for the FPÖ, it seem, is about to be compounded by the arrival on the political scene of a new Party, lead (and financed) by Austro-Canadian millionaire Frank Stronach. The emergence of such a Party has been the subject of discussion for some months but during August Stronach has announced that he does intend to take forward such an enterprise and it will be launched on the 24th September 2012. Since his declaration he has already secured support from three existing members of the current Parliament – two from the right and one from the left of the political divide.

Currently polling as high as 9% in one poll, this ‘Party-to-be’ has been picking up support from the pool of voters who have been telling pollsters for some time that they would give their vote to a new/other Party. But polls are also showing that the ‘Stronarch’ Party is likely to strip away 1 in 5 of those who supported the FPÖ at the last election & half of those who supported the BZÖ. The later is important as the rise in support for the FPÖ has in a significant part been due to voters abandoning the scandal ridden BZÖ. Thus depending upon how many have already switched (and if the new Party remains attractive after it has been launched and maps out much more fully its position) the FPÖ could be facing a further decline in support of between 5 & 10 percentage points. What happens to the Party (which has a history of splits) and how much more support would disappear as it lost its status as ‘main anti-establishment’ grouping is an interesting question.

Table 1: Average of last five opinion polls

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 28.60% 29.3% -0.70%
OVP 21.80% 26% -4.20%
FPO 21.00% 17.5% 3.50%
Greens 13.20% 10.4% 2.80%
BZO 2.40% 10.7% -8.30%
Others 13.00% 6.1% 6.90%
Note 1: Pirates only   appeared separately in Gallup polls
Note 2: Stronach only   apears in Gallup & Karmasin polls
Note 3: Pirates/Stronach   incorporated into Others in above table until they appear in all polls
Pirates 4.80% 0.0% 4.80%
Stronach 6.80% 0.0% 6.80%
Sources: Gallup 25-08-12
Karmasin/Profil 25-08-12
Gallup 18-08-12
Gallup 10-08-12
Gallup 04-08-12
 

 

 Table 2
Polls Av Now Jan-12 Change
SPO 28.60% 28.60% 0.00%
OVP 21.80% 23.80% -2.00%
FPO 21.00% 26.60% -5.60%
Greens 13.20% 13.60% -0.40%
BZO 2.40% 4.80% -2.40%
  Others 13.00% 2.60% 10.40%

1 Comment

Filed under Austrian Politics, Politics