Austrian Election Results Could Bring a Nationalist Coalition

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Parliamentary elections in Austria may dramatically change the political landscape of this 8 million country in the heart of the European Union. Austrians on Sunday gave the previous so called big coalition of social democrats (SP) and conservatives (VP) a big thumbs-down with both parties descending below the 30% mark while two smaller parties, the anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FP) and the nationalist Alliance for Austria's (BZOe) gained dramatically.
According to figures released by Austrian TV station ORF the SP vote fell 5.7 percentage points to 29.7% while conservatives were told an even more compelling lesson. The VP votes sunk 8.8 percentage points to 25.6%. This is the historically worst result for the two parties that ruled Austria most of the time since WW2.
The Freedom Party under its relatively new leader Heinz-Christian Strache, 39, gained 7 percentage points and got 18% of the vote after 98% of all ballots were counted. Strache has successfully bet on a hardline anti-immigration line in his election strategy.
The biggest winner of the election was Joerg Haider's BZOe which almost tripled its vote to 11%.
The environmentalist Green Party lost 1.2 percentage points and gathered 9.8% of the vote.
Austria to Become the Nationalist Pariah in the EU?
As voters have given a definite thumbs-down to a continuation of the big coalition the new division of the 183 parliamentary seats make a coalition of conservatives and the two far-right parties the most likely outcome of coalition talks which are expected to start as soon as Tuesday.
This political earthquake in benign Austria could be a frontrunner what may happen in weaker economies like Hungary and Slovakia where nationalists have been gaining recently.
Austrian voters have projected their fears of an uncertain future. Inflation reached a 15-year high last summer while the government has scaled down social expenses whose explosive costs are based on worsening demographics, a trend that can be seen everywhere in Europe.
But a centrist to far-right coalition could land Austria in the position of a nationalist pariah within the EU. Both far-right parties had voiced strong anti-EU concerns before the election and were followed hesitantly on this path by the Social Democrats, albeit with a much softer tone.
The decider in this election may have been the populist Austrian daily "Kronen Zeitung" which pushed the Social Democrats leading candidate Werner Faymann while steering a course of xenophobic reporting at the same time, indirectly favoring the far-right winners of this election.
This is a sad day for Austria and the political climate in the EU as well. Austria had been put under a couple of EU sanctions after the vote in 2000 when the conservatives formed a coalition with the Freedom Party. I am thrilled to read the first comments from abroad.


Wikinvest Wire