The outcome of the Austrian parliamentary elections must seem paradoxical all across Europe. Despite the – by comparison – favorable economic data, the ruling “Great Coalition” of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and Conservatives (ÖVP) was punished. Their share of the votes fell back from 55 percent to less than 51.
The SPÖ at 27 percent remained the largest party, however now sitting in a parliament with four right-wing parties, which are holding 107 out of 183 seats altogether.
The German-nationalist, racist FPÖ scored better than expected at 20.5 (+3.0%) percent. It managed to retrieve the majority of the votes they had since 2005 lost to the BZÖ, which had been founded by Jörg Haider. In Styria, however, the FPÖ topped the poll to become the party with the most votes, spectacularly gaining from the electorate of both the ÖVP and SPÖ. Notably among workers and employees, the FPÖ replaced the SPÖ as the strongest party.
At 12.4%, the Greens remained below expectations. The losses they suffered in Vienna had less to do with local political blunders of the Red-Green city government but was rather related to the emergence of a new party, the NEOS. With “Frank” (5.7%), a party sponsored by a Canadian billionaire, and NEOS (5.0%), a party-split-off of the ÖVP, subsidized by another billionaire, two new right-wing parties with a neoliberal agenda will make it into parliament. In Vienna, where the NEOS reached 7.6%, they mobilized voters from both the ÖVP and the Greens.
As the only declared left party that stood for election, the KPÖ gained voters and reached 1 percent (1.7% Vienna, Styria 1.8%). Where the KPÖ is anchored on the communal level, the results lie between 2.5% and 4%, and raise hope for a gain in position at the upcoming elections. The Pirates scored 0,8 %. The problem of creating a wider political platform of the left to which the KPÖ is calling remains still unsolved.
Although the election results allow for the continuation of the Great Coalition, the formation of the government could prove rather difficult. In contrast to the SPÖ, the ÖVP is not as determined about the continuation of the coalition due to its being pressured by both the right on the part of the Freedom Party, as well as the center, by the NEOS. Nevertheless, the influential centers of the ÖVP assess the experiment of a right-wing government, including the Freedom Party and one of the new parties, as too risky.
But it is possible for the ÖVP to try taking advantage of the increased parliamentary weight of the rightist fractions in the negotiations with the Social Democrats, and they could possibly also urge for the participation of one of the new right-wing parties in the government. How far the SPÖ can give in to this pressure is yet unclear. Conversely, the Social Democrats could be pushing for the inclusion of the Greens into a coalition with the ÖVP.
On 29 September the Austrians have voted paradoxically, indeed. They have expressed their dissatisfaction with the neo-liberal policy of the coalition through the strengthening of neo-liberal parties, and will therefore get even more neoliberal policies. The German-nationalist, racist Freedom Party at 20.5% is lying in wait.
red: SPÖ (Social Democrats)
black: ÖVP (Conservatives)
blue: FPÖ (nationlist, right-wing Freedom Party)