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Friday, September 27, 2013

Almost a third of Austrians set to vote for anti-euro parties

Chancellor Werner Faymann (R) & Frank Stronach (L)
Hot on Germany’s heels, Austria is up with its national election on Sunday.

Austria is currently governed by a ‘grand coalition’ of Chancellor Werner Faymann’s centre-left social democrats (SPÖ) and the centre-right People’s Party (ÖVP) lead by Michael Spindelegger. Polls put SPÖ at about 27% and the ÖVP 23% –  theoretically enough secure a return to office.

But it’s not going to be an easy ride. Posing a significant challenge, for example, is the euro-critical and anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPÖ), which is polling at 21% – in the last parliament it got 17% of the votes. Meanwhile, the Green party  is polling at 14% and the newly-formed free market, anti-euro ‘Team Stronach’ is polling at 7%. The BZÖ, a far-right split-off of the FPÖ, polls at about 2 - 3%, and in the last election won a staggering 10.7% of the vote (see table below).

Share of vote in 2008 national election (%)
Current polling projection (%) (Karmasin/Profil Poll, 24.09.13)
Social democrats (SPÖ)

People’s Party (ÖVP)

Freedom Party (FPÖ)

The Greens (GRÜNE)

Team Stronach

Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ)

Most election-watchers believe a continuation of the current coalition is the most likely oucome. (One Austrian polling analyst gives this a 76% chance). But the result will also be dependent on how many of the smaller parties make it over the 4% parliamentary threshold. The two main parties could also turn to the Greens to prop up their coalition. Having said that, the Greens oppose the EU's Fiscal Treaty, which may throw a spanner into the works.

So the more interesting element of this election, then, is that about 30% of Austrians are projected vote for the FPÖ, Team Stronach and the BZÖ: all parties who officially support the break-up of the eurozone .

More about their policies below:

The FPÖ, supports an Austrian exit from the eurozone and a referendum on the eurozone bailout fund ESM.

The BZÖ, supports Austria leaving the euro and joining a Northern eurozone with Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Team Stronach, founded by Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach a year ago, has done some flip-flopping on the euro. It initially floated the idea of eurozone countries having their own currencies, with the euro as a parallel currency. But now, the party's manifesto states that it wants to “revise, abolish or reconstruct” the euro. In its own words, it has an "explicitly eurocritical position,” and that “the artificial unification of Europe has failed.” It’s won over 10% in regional election – not so bad for a newcomer.

Similar to Germany, a grand coalition government would mean no big shift in Austria’s eurozone policy. So the real significance of this election, then, is that in Austria –a nation whose economy is key to underpinning the euro –  almost a third of voters want to leave it behind –  or at least vote for a party that does.

For additional analysis on the Austrian National Election see a blog post by our partner organisation, Open Europe Berlin.


Rik said...

Some important trends in EU countries national politics.

1. Traditional parties have to depend on each other to get a majority to govern. Basically what we see here. Effectively giving voters very little or no choice. The only choice they have is traditional (which will end up together in a government) or populists.
Simply doesnot look sustainable longer term especially since a lot of the present policies over the whole of Europe is deeply unpopular with large parts of their respective populations.

2. Basically the above trend will mean that the traditional parties most under pressure will have to adjust or run the risk to become irrelevant.
Most under pressure is a combination of doing electoral wise a bad job, having unappealing leadership or are closest to popular parties which do well.
These traditional parties will simply have to move into the direction of the populist parties mainly on the top of the agenda issues: immigration; criminality; Euro; EU and austerity.

3. The EU itself has in no way adjusted to these dynamics and as one can see there are confrontasional policies time and time again.
Which will next to the Euro mess hardly do well for the general popularity of the EU and its institutions.
This is simply eroding.
Take the French Roma issue as an example. Likely a majority of the French sees it as other poorer EU countries exporting their problems to France. The only noise from Brussels is human rights stuff.
And there are a lot of these things. When forced solidarity is the thing that should make it work (like here) you have a problem.
Europe is social because most people think they benefit from it not because there is solidarity (especially not of the kind which make the current entitlement benefactors having to pay for it).

4. Sidenote.
The set up of the EU and especially the EZ is that exit is difficult if not impossible. Which works in a normal enviroment to keep everybody aboard.
However if things get under long term severe pressure it likley will turn against them.
Countries joined the institutions and projects thereof without a proper popular platform with the local population.
If directly or indirectly via the polls the population of a country should want to withdraw even if it is a small country directly it will become an institutional crisis. As there are no arrangements in place to do that and getting them in place will take years if they are already possible.
Also on this issue the EU didnot yet make adjustments, it accepted recently Estonia (if I donot mix them up) as an EZ member, without a proper platform.
A dangerous game they are playing at least for themselves.
Anyway good for the UK. The lower the popularity of the EU the better the reneg results will likely be.
And the more likley and earlier treaties have to be changed the more the good old blackmail can be used to gets its way.

Freedom Lover said...

Rik, I think you mean Latvia is the EU member that is about to become the eurozone's next new member (the eurozone's 18th). It's on January 1st 2014.

Certainly leaving the EU is meant to be hard, but that is what Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is there for - to allow a minimum 2-year negotiation period to ensure there is no hiatus for exports etc when a country ultimately leaves. But if & when Britain finally invokes Article 50, it's sure to be a temptation to some other member countries to push for some changes of there own. And possibly some other withdrawals too, or at least a widespread feast day of opt-outs!

Anonymous said...

Coalition governments are weak governments.

And that's exactly what the EUSSR is trying to produce across Europe.