Sunday 25 October 2020.Time-
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Austria’s main parties in tough election fight

AustriaDhaka, 29 September, Abnews : Austria’s once-mighty two main political parties are projected on Sunday to suffer their worst election result since 1945, as voters turn to the far-right, the Greens and two new parties. The unloved coalition of Chancellor Werner Faymann’s Social Democrats (SPOe) with the conservative People’s Party (OeVP) will likely stay in power, however, but possibly needing a third partner. No clear alternative will emerge, Anton Pelinka, an Austrian political scientist at Budapest’s Central European University, told media.

Opinion polls give the SPOe 27-28 percent and the OeVP 21-22 percent of the vote, down from 29 percent and 26 percent at the last election in 2008 – and a far cry from scores touching 50 percent in decades gone by. Even though Austria has largely escaped Europe’s financial woes, and still enjoys the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union, a string of corruption scandals has lost the two main parties support.

As a result they may fall short of a majority of seats, although this will depend on how many parties can win the necessary four percent of the vote to enter parliament. The far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) could see a repeat of its 1999 triumph under Joerg Haider and pip the OeVP for second place, with polls predicting a score of around 20 percent, up from 17.5 percent in 2008.

But after the outcry caused by Haider’s entry into government in 2000, history is unlikely to repeat itself with neither the SPOe nor the OeVP seen as willing to form a coalition with the party’s new leader, Heinz-Christian Strache. The eurosceptic 44-year-old has campaigned on a platform of Love thy Neighbour – if they are Austrian, that is – as well as for less Europe and more Swiss-style direct democracy.

At a final election rally Saturday in Vienna, a hoarse Strache said the SPOe was a party for Islamism and that to get a council flat you need to wear a headscarf. Another unlikely partner is billionaire Frank Stronach, 81, who created his own party last year after returning from Canada posing as a prodigal son seeking to rescue the country he left as a young man.

At first his business prowess went down well, but gaffes including calling for the death penalty for contract killers and suggesting China might invade have seen Team Stronach slide in the polls to six or seven percent.

The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZOe), formed by Haider after splitting from the FPOe in 2005 and which won 10 percent just before his death in 2008, are also personae non grata and may not win seats this time. This leaves the Greens, who, along with handing out organic condoms have benefitted from being unsullied by corruption and who are projected to win around 14 percent, up from 10 percent.

I believe we have the chance to push red-black (the SPOe and the OeVP’s colours) under 50 percent and to have a new beginning with the Greens, party leader Eva Glawischnig said Saturday. Liberal debutants The New Austria party (NEOS), if they can win more than four percent, could be another potential partner.

 

Abn/Sun-01/International/Desk/MR/Mustafiz/Fatama

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