Austrian General Election – 5 days to go
Given the nature of my genes, it’s worth a mention that there’s going to be a General Election in Austria on Sunday. Want to know what’s happening?
Let me be honest with you all. My politics are not left-wing. I don’t care if you call it liberal, socialist or progressive, I just find something unsettling about most left-wing governments in that they tend to have a habit of centralising power and undermining christian moral ethics. Most of the great “unworkings” of our Christian heritage in Europe have been committed by old style or new style Socialist (and Social Democrat) parties. My politics on the other hand are right-wing, are traditionalist and are rooted in my relationship with Jesus. Call it “traditional family values” if you want, but don’t mistake it with neo-conservatism – we’re in the UK here and not in the US.
That was nice and full of simplified cliches wasn’t it? Lovely.
So, back to Austria. I was mildly pleased by the formation of the BZOe last year as an offshoot of the FPOe. You all know the FPOe don’tcha? They were that “horrible neo-facist” party led by Joerg Haider who caused all that trouble a few years ago by winning a third of the vote and entering into a coalition with the OeVP. Except, I’ve never met a single person in the UK who can name a single policy of the FPOe that they objected with, mainly because they didn’t even know what they stood for apart from what the BBC told them.
Let’s get a few things straight then. The FPOe in the late 90s were neo-facist in the same way that the UK Conservative Party were. As in, they weren’t. In fact, if you looked at the Conservative Party manifesto for the 2001 UK Election and then the FPOe platform for the same time they were almost identical. But because Haider attended an SS-Veterans association dinner that made him a facist. Well, here’s a little news-flash. It’s hard to go to a Veterans association meeting in Austria or Germany that doesn’t have ex SS and Nazi members in it. It’s kinda like asking to attend a British Legion meeting but then insisting that no-one who fought at Dunkirk, Singapore, Normandy or Burma could be there. That’s not in any way condoning the war crimes of the Nazi government, but it is asking for a level playing field. Old soldiers are old soldiers. The Waffen-SS by the end of the war was less a Nazi Party army and more simply a way to get on a bit quicker in the Wehrmacht. The recruitment standards were so lax by 1944 that it really wasn’t in any sense an Aryan super-army. “No blue eyes or blond hair Kamerad Fritz? Sign up right here”.
Right, back to the point – by the mid 2000s the FPOe was becoming split between a more nationalistic wing (the kind that put the anti into anti-Turk) and a more traditonal / populist group. That led to the split (think SDP and Labour in the early 80s) so what’s left in the FPOe are the more xenophobic types and the BZOe was formed by the slightly more sane members, including Haider. Remember him? He was the evil “Hitler-loving” bloke we met above. He’s still governor in Carinthia by the way, which is the region in Austria with by far the best codified minority (Slovene, Italian etc) rights in the country. But please don’t let that stop you labeling him “a racist”.
Anyway, despite having attempted to shake off the “far-right” image, the BZOe has simply been seen as a bunch of ex-FPOe peeps who are spitting their dummies out of the pram. And personally I find that a bit disappointing, because their policy platform is moderately centre-right with a strong family emphasis and my preferred of the campaign. They also produce by far the best campaign videos. Despite this, their campaign seems to be falling apart right at the end, with their opinion poll rating running at about 4% (which should still guarantee them a few seats as they are strong in Carinthia, Salzburg and Tyrol) and having had a run of bad news stories, the latest being the resignation of their Justice Minister. Sadly however much I’d love to back them, I can’t see it having any point. They are literally up to their neck in it and Peter Westenthaler is probably the least liked politician in the country. It’s all a far, far cry from the days when Haider almost single-handedly brought down the Proporz system that had ruined Austria for 40 years.
I can’t bring myself to even want to think about supporting the new FPOe. Really, I can’t. They make Veritas look sane and electable.
So that leaves us with the OeVP. Think the UK Conservatives run by a bunch of bank managers. Solid, reliable centre-right politics – not quite as “traditional” as I’d want but nevermind. They’re not the Socialists and that’ll do me fine. Anyway, the SPOe aren’t going to win as they’re still enmeshed in a corruption scandal that makes the peerages for loans debacle of Labour look tame.
As to what will happen on Sunday, well the OeVP are going to win, but not by enough to form a majority government. There’s no way that the country will go back to the old days of Proporz so the chances of an OeVP / SPOe grand coalition are miniscule (think Tory / Labour coalition with everything down to school headteachers shared out 50 / 50 between both parties. See what I mean? Horrible) so it really depends how well the BZOe do. If they scrape 6 or 7 seats then we’re looking at an OeVP / Green / BZOe coalition (not a bad bet). If the BZOe fail to get more than 4 seats then it might just be OeVP / Greens on their own. God forbid the OeVP join up with the new style FPOe. Under Haider the FPOe still actually had something going for them – this latest mob are ridiculous.
Or is it more ridiculous that over 10% of Austrians look like voting for them? Or is it more ridiculous that you’re thinking “yes, it’s ridiculous that the FPOe should get into government” despite the fact that I’d stake this month’s stipend that you couldn’t name a single FPOe policy or party leader without looking on their website?
Not that I have a bee in my bonnet about Brits commenting on Austrian right-wing politics without actually knowing anything about it…….
Now, if anybody can actually find me any hint of an OeVP web-banner on their site that I could stick on mine, do let me know. They may have a flashy website (almost as cool as the BZOe one) but are they link-friendly? Are they heck.