Short threatens new elections with Déjà Vu
The controversial coalition with the FPÖ is not quite finished yet since Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is already casting calls for votes. No wonder, it will be a difficult mission.
The man, whom they once called the “child prodigy,” did a political feat on a memorable Saturday: Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was hours too late – and yet one step ahead. He had allowed more than a full day to pass before he commented on the scandal, which, as the “Ibiza affair”, provided a topic of conversation far beyond Austria’s borders. On Friday evening, the first message about the video of Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the right-wing party FPÖ shook the republic. When, at 7:46 pm, he finally came to the cameras shortly after, Strache had long since announced his resignation, more than seven hours ago.
Since noon, demonstrators have been dancing in front of the Chancellery at Vienna’s Ballhausplatz for the new anti-government hymn “We’re going to Ibiza” by the Venga Boys, the basses were good to hear in Kurz’s government seat, as well as the whistles and the loud “new elections “- chants. On television screens, a special broadcast chased the next, experts and opposition politicians demanded a clarifying statement from the Chancellor. And the? Waited until the evening news – and did not spend much time in his statement with the end of the coalition on, but went immediately one step further: Short ushered in the election campaign in front of a large audience. For minutes he praised the good work of the coalition, which he would like to continue, but without the scandals of the FPÖ. “If you are satisfied with my course”, He turned directly to the voters, “then we need clear conditions at the next election, for which I ask for your support.” A clear case of an early start – but Kurz can take any advantage because he is damned in the new elections for more than just to win.
The difficult search for a coalition partner
As often and extensively, as Kurz is acclaimed in the German media, it is almost forgotten that in 2017 he sees in pure percentages a worse election result (31.5%) than did Angela Merkel with the CDU (32.9%). Like the German chancellor, he had to rely on a relatively strong partner, which in his case actually could only be called FPÖ – in the election campaign, Kurz had vehemently promised the end of the standstill in the hated Grand Coalition because he could lead the poor bad the next alliance with the SPÖ,
After the new elections, which are likely to be held at the end of September, Kurz faces a similar dilemma – unless he raises the result of his ÖVP, as close as possible to the magic 40 percent mark. Time and again, and especially after each new scandal of the FPÖ was rumored, short observe the surveys exactly, and as soon as a favorable constellation looms, he would have to re-vote. Alone: So far, not a single scandal has sent the poll ratings of the Freedom Basement.
That’s why Kurz took so much time until he finally announced the end of turquoise blue: He rolled over other options. He had three, only two he pursued seriously – with the SPÖ, there is currently no common substantive denominator, a flying change was apparently not even probed in a telephone conversation. For a long time, Kurz negotiated with the interim leadership of the FPÖ, which offered him a continuation of the coalition under a vice-chancellor Norbert Hofer. According to Austrian media, this model failed not at the person of the Minister of Transport, but at the up to “Ibizagate” biggest attraction of the government: Sebastian Kurz demanded the replacement of Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, allegedly he even reclaimed the ministry for his ÖVP. The FPÖ waved it off, so Kurz opted for new elections.
Ibiza is not Knittelfeld – is it?
If the well-worn sentence of the crisis, which holds opportunities and risks, has ever voted, then for the starting position of Sebastian Kurz. The chances show a historical role model, which is often herauskrkramt these days: The first black-blue government under ÖVP Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, which 2002 came to a sudden end. FPÖ leader Jörg Haider himself blew up his party at the legendary party convention in Knittelfeld, Styria, and with it the coalition. In the new elections, the ÖVP increased by 15 percentage points to 42 percent and dominated the renewed alliance with the badly decimated Freedom Party at will.
But not only because it sounds weird, one should not quickly declare Ibiza the new Knittelfeld. That the FPÖ loses almost 17 percentage points, as in 2002, seems unrealistic. On the other hand: Better conditions for new elections than now Kurz would probably have hardly found in the next two years. The majority of the government’s agenda is approved by the public, as surveys clearly show. In short, it only has to convince voters that he was the sole helmsman.
The FPÖ, on the other hand, first has to find itself new once it has lost its undisputed leading figure with Heinz-Christian Strache. Strache is the FPÖ, he has rebuilt it from the rubble of the Haider leaving, from 11 percent in the 2006 elections to 26 percent in the fall of 2017. Although he trained as vice-chancellor of the new role of statesman – in the election campaigns He always led the Attack Division, with his booming voice that could fill any beer tent with the slogans of mastermind Herbert Kickl. The rather gentle Norbert Hofer, his designated successor, though not on the merits, but in tone, certainly enjoys high respect in the party and apparently also among the citizens, who had almost elected him as Federal President at the end of 2016.
The weakness of others
The Social Democrats do not have to fear Kurz at the moment either. They are lagging behind in the polls, not as far as the German comrades, but nevertheless very hopeless. Pamela Rendi-Wagner, chairwoman since November 2018, has not been able to give herself or the party a new profile. It is unclear whether the SPÖ will even go with her as a top candidate in the new elections.
It is above all this weakness of the competition that makes Kurz optimistic about the new elections. In the end, he could then be the big winner – only a few months after his experiment with the FPÖ goes down in Austria’s biggest political scandal of the decade.