Saracen's Fez
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What's going on in...Austria?

An election is happening in Austria on Sunday 29th September!

Who are the main parties?
Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) – centre-right, 62 seats last time
Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) – centre-left, 52 seats last time
Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) – far-right, 51 seats last time
New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) – centrist, 10 seats last time
Now! (JETZT) – left-populist, 8 seats last time
The Greens – green, 0 seats last time

What normally happens?
Austria uses a proportional voting system, so it is rare for one party to win a majority (which would require 92 seats). Instead, Austria has had a strong tendency since the Second World War to have 'grand coalitions' between the ÖVP and the SPÖ under a system known as Proporz (proportionality). The main centre-left and centre-right parties have normally taken the view that it is better to have some power almost all of the time (in a recurring coalition) than a lot of power only some of the time (if they refused to work together and were only in government if they won the election). A further reason for this is that Austria has usually had three-party politics, with the far-right FPÖ (which has a tradition of Nazi apologism) as the third party, and so ÖVP-SPÖ coalitions have been used to keep them out of power.

Why are they having an election?
In 2017 the ÖVP leader, Sebastian Kurz, pulled his party out of a grand coalition, where Kurz was vice-chancellor and foreign minister. This caused an early election to take place, where the ÖVP were the largest party. Contrary to tradition, Kurz formed a coalition with the far-right FPÖ, and became Austria's youngest ever chancellor at the age of 31. Unlike in Germany, in Austria it is not completely taboo for mainstream parties like the ÖVP to work with the far right.

This government served for two years, until 18th May this year when German newspapers released a the #Ibizagate video. This showed the FPÖ leader and vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache offering government contracts to Russian oligarchs in return for them buying the Kronen-Zeitung, Austria's biggest tabloid newspaper, and switching the paper's support to the FPÖ. When this came to light, Strache resigned.

Later that day Sebastian Kurz ended the controversial coalition between his ÖVP and the FPÖ, and called an election for this autumn. Two days later he sacked the FPÖ minister Herbert Kickl, who as interior minister would have been responsible for leading the investigation into Strache. All of the remaining FPÖ ministers resigned in protest and, with the coalition ended and his majority gone, Kurz lost a vote of no confidence. He was replaced as chancellor by Brigitte Bierlein, a non-partisan technocrat, who became the first woman to hold the role. An election was called for after the summer, which will now take place on 29th September.

What is likely to happen?
The Greens will re-enter parliament, but not come close to challenging the main three parties. JETZT is unlikely to win any seats. Otherwise the situation is unlikely to change significantly from the 2017 election. The ÖVP will finish first, with the SPÖ in a fairly distant second, closely followed by the FPÖ.

Realistically this means that the ÖVP will lead the new government, with Sebastian Kurz set to become chancellor again. The big question is who he is going to choose as his coalition partner. After Ibizagate it seems unlikely that he will countenance a coalition with the FPÖ again, but Kurz has also tried to create an image of being a reforming politician and will not really want to return to the classic grand coalition with the SPÖ. Neither NEOS nor the Greens are likely to be big enough to work with the ÖVP alone, but the three parties may well be able to combine, mathematically at least.

The Fez prediction™ is that we will see another grand coalition between the ÖVP and the SPÖ, but it will be grudging and may take a while to be negotiated and form. This could be significant for Britain if further Brexit negotiations or an Article 50 extension take place: Sebastian Kurz has typically been one of the EU leaders who are more supportive of the UK in Brexit talks, and whether he has been successfully re-elected in parliament by the end of October may well make a difference.

Discussion points:
– Do you think it's better for moderate parties to work with more extreme parties like the FPÖ, in the hope that they destroy themselves like this?
– At the 1986 FPÖ party conference, some delegates attended in Nazi memorabilia. Should it be concerning that this party is still so popular in the country of Hitler's birth?
– What do you make of the growth of the Greens, as in much of Europe? Is it possible for environmentalist parties to work with parties that lean to the right like the ÖVP?
– Would it be better for Labour and the Conservatives to share power all the time rather than each govern alone for part of the time?
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Saracen's Fez
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(This is a new initiative I'm trying to bring in to bring more coverage of international politics on TSR. Please let me know if it's interesting and what you think.)
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the bear
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Ach those Osterreich Electionen; such happy memories, nu ?





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BlueIndigoViolet
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Austria? You mean Greater Germany ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
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the bear
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(Original post by BlueIndigoViolet)
Austria? You mean Greater Germany ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
:spank:

get back in the cellar

no schnitzel for you today Fraulein
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Andrew97
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(Original post by the bear)
Ach those Osterreich Electionen; such happy memories, nu ?





I prefer the old version with Zero Mostel and Gene wilder.
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Andrew97
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(Original post by the bear)
:spank:

get back in the cellar

no schnitzel for you today Fraulein
Alright Josef Frtizl. I’m
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Saracen's Fez
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OK, maybe it was a bad idea to begin this with Austria and I should have expected this. The problem is, I just did Nazi this coming.
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Andrew97
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(Original post by Saracen's Fez)
OK, maybe it was a bad idea to begin this with Austria and I should have expected this. The problem is, I just did Nazi this coming.
Ann Frankly you should not stand for it!
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CatusStarbright
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(Original post by Saracen's Fez)
OK, maybe it was a bad idea to begin this with Austria and I should have expected this. The problem is, I just did Nazi this coming.
(Original post by Andrew97)
Ann Frankly you should not stand for it!
Groans
PRSOM to you both!
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z-hog
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(Original post by Saracen's Fez)
OK, maybe it was a bad idea to begin this with Austria and I should have expected this. The problem is, I just did Nazi this coming.
It was all about that, wasn't it?
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Saracen's Fez
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(Original post by z-hog)
It was all about that, wasn't it?
Not really, Austrian politics and Austria's place in Europe are genuinely interesting and only indirectly related to its Nazi past.
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the bear
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(Original post by Andrew97)
Ann Frankly you should not stand for it!
(Original post by Saracen's Fez)
OK, maybe it was a bad idea to begin this with Austria and I should have expected this. The problem is, I just did Nazi this coming.
these are a few of my favorite things
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CatusStarbright
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To attempt to start some serious answers:

– Do you think it's better for moderate parties to work with more extreme parties like the FPÖ, in the hope that they destroy themselves like this?
Not necessarily, because it could perhaps seriously harm the image of the moderate party and could lead to some extreme policies being put in place in some form.

– At the 1986 FPÖ party conference, some delegates attended in Nazi memorabilia. Should it be concerning that this party is still so popular in the country of Hitler's birth?
Possibly, but it would be concerning anywhere. I don't think the fact that Austria is Hitler's country of birth necessarily changes that fact.

– What do you make of the growth of the Greens, as in much of Europe? Is it possible for environmentalist parties to work with parties that lean to the right like the ÖVP?
I think the growth of the Greens is probably primarily led by young people and is surely tying in with the rise of the climate movement. I don't think that environmentalism and right-wing politics are necessarily diametrically opposed, so of course I think that that would be possible. I think addressing climate change should be a concern of all of us no matter what the political leaning of the party or person in question.

– Would it be better for Labour and the Conservatives to share power all the time rather than each govern alone for part of the time?
I worry that such a Grand Coalition would just lead to a lot of stalling, disagreement and ultimately an inability to pass policies given the need for broad agreement among the government. So perhaps this would not be a great idea.
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z-hog
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(Original post by CatusStarbright)
– At the 1986 FPÖ party conference, some delegates attended in Nazi memorabilia. Should it be concerning that this party is still so popular in the country of Hitler's birth?
Possibly, but it would be concerning anywhere. I don't think the fact that Austria is Hitler's country of birth necessarily changes that fact.
It's 'concerning' only to someone wishing to slip the Nazi connection into the Austrian elections debate. Whether that is voluntary or not I wouldn't know but it may well not be. Are the FPO Nazis, that seems to be the question.
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CatusStarbright
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(Original post by z-hog)
It's 'concerning' only to someone wishing to slip the Nazi connection into the Austrian elections debate. Whether that is voluntary or not I wouldn't know but it may well not be. Are the FPO Nazis, that seems to be the question.
That's fair enough, but clearly a number of people have been thinking about Nazis in this thread.
I don't think Fez would ask that questions, but to answer it anyway; I think it would be way to broad a brush to paint with here. It would be unreasonable to call all the members of the FPO Neo-Nazis based solely on the actions of a few.
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Saracen's Fez
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Just a bit of comment / devil's advocacy...

(Original post by CatusStarbright)
To attempt to start some serious answers:

– Do you think it's better for moderate parties to work with more extreme parties like the FPÖ, in the hope that they destroy themselves like this?
Not necessarily, because it could perhaps seriously harm the image of the moderate party and could lead to some extreme policies being put in place in some form.
An interesting point, and links to dodgy Russian oligarchs are the sort of thing that the FPÖ risks tarring the ÖVP with. In terms of actual policies I'm not sure if anything that might be considered far-right has been out in place, though as Austrian politics is often glacially slow that may have been a result of the length of the government having been cut so short (IIRC the standard is a four-year term).

– At the 1986 FPÖ party conference, some delegates attended in Nazi memorabilia. Should it be concerning that this party is still so popular in the country of Hitler's birth?
Possibly, but it would be concerning anywhere. I don't think the fact that Austria is Hitler's country of birth necessarily changes that fact.
(Original post by z-hog)
It's 'concerning' only to someone wishing to slip the Nazi connection into the Austrian elections debate. Whether that is voluntary or not I wouldn't know but it may well not be. Are the FPO Nazis, that seems to be the question.
This may be a good time to clarify that this Nazi memorabilia was in many cases the delegates' own uniforms from their service in the Wehrmacht in WWII. Whilst Austria underwent basically zero de-Nazification after WWII (partly because it was caught in the middle and neutral in the Cold War) and it was not uncommon for ex-Nazis to be involved in politics – the SPÖ cabinet in 1970 had four former Nazis as ministers, including one who was in the SS, and in 1986 the presidential candidate Kurt Waldheim was discovered to have doctored his CV to obscure the fact that he fought for the Nazis in the Balkans, and he was elected comfortably – it was rather less common to walk around in the 1980s still wearing the uniform.

Obviously many of these people are dead of old age by this point, but that conference was also notable for electing Jörg Haider as FPÖ leader, who transformed the FPÖ from a classically liberal 'freedom party' to the far-right party it is today, and who took the FPÖ into their first coalition with the ÖVP in 2000, a government which actually provoked EU sanctions on Austria.
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z-hog
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(Original post by Saracen's Fez)
Obviously many of these people are dead of old age by this point, but that conference was also notable for electing Jörg Haider as FPÖ leader, who transformed the FPÖ from a classically liberal 'freedom party' to the far-right party it is today, and who took the FPÖ into their first coalition with the ÖVP in 2000, a government which actually provoked EU sanctions on Austria.
That is appreciated, it remains that the thrust is to probe for traces of Nazi influence in modern times. Yes, countries not fully aligned with Brussels on immigration flows and allocations of quotas have been subjected to sanctions for their defiance over such matters of national sovereignty or lack of it. Funny that nobody probes the German leadership of the EU for traces of authoritarianism emanating from the past, even if Hitler was born in Austria. There's much more freedom and room for diversity within the US and their states than in the EU, that simply cannot be denied.
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CatusStarbright
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(Original post by Saracen's Fez)
Just a bit of comment / devil's advocacy...
Perfect

An interesting point, and links to dodgy Russian oligarchs are the sort of thing that the FPÖ risks tarring the ÖVP with. In terms of actual policies I'm not sure if anything that might be considered far-right has been out in place, though as Austrian politics is often glacially slow that may have been a result of the length of the government having been cut so short (IIRC the standard is a four-year term).
Why is it so slow? Is it because Austrians don't like change, there are lots of barriers...?
This may be a good time to clarify that this Nazi memorabilia was in many cases the delegates' own uniforms from their service in the Wehrmacht in WWII. Whilst Austria underwent basically zero de-Nazification after WWII (partly because it was caught in the middle and neutral in the Cold War) and it was not uncommon for ex-Nazis to be involved in politics – the SPÖ cabinet in 1970 had four former Nazis as ministers, including one who was in the SS, and in 1986 the presidential candidate Kurt Waldheim was discovered to have doctored his CV to obscure the fact that he fought for the Nazis in the Balkans, and he was elected comfortably – it was rather less common to walk around in the 1980s still wearing the uniform.

Obviously many of these people are dead of old age by this point, but that conference was also notable for electing Jörg Haider as FPÖ leader, who transformed the FPÖ from a classically liberal 'freedom party' to the far-right party it is today, and who took the FPÖ into their first coalition with the ÖVP in 2000, a government which actually provoked EU sanctions on Austria.
That's interesting, and possibly a little disquieting.
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Saracen's Fez
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(Original post by CatusStarbright)
Why is it so slow? Is it because Austrians don't like change, there are lots of barriers...?
Personally I think it's a result of the Cold War and a comparison with Germany and its fate. In brief, Germany was occupied in 1945 and the occupation was (more or less) lifted in 1949, though obviously the country was split in two. Austria's occupation lasted from 1945 to 1955, but the country was then neutral in the Cold War, rich and stable.

So the Austrians had a bit of a chip on their shoulder about the length of the occupation, but were also a stable, democratic, free and wealthy country, and so they were both risk- and change-averse. This probably explains both the tendency for broad coalitions and also the resistance to de-Nazification. (Not to mention the fact that Nazism was very easy to frame as an exclusively German thing, contrary to the actual truth.)
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