Open Europe Blog

Chancellor Werner Faymann (R) & Frank Stronach (L)

Hot on Germany’s heels, Austria is up with its national election on Sunday.

Austria is currently governed by a ‘grand coalition’ of Chancellor Werner Faymann’s centre-left social democrats (SPÖ) and the centre-right People’s Party (ÖVP) lead by Michael Spindelegger. Polls put SPÖ at about 27% and the ÖVP 23% –  theoretically enough secure a return to office.

But it’s not going to be an easy ride. Posing a significant challenge, for example, is the euro-critical and anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPÖ), which is polling at 21% – in the last parliament it got 17% of the votes. Meanwhile, the Green party  is polling at 14% and the newly-formed free market, anti-euro ‘Team Stronach’ is polling at 7%. The BZÖ, a far-right split-off of the FPÖ, polls at about 2 – 3%, and in the last election won a staggering 10.7% of the vote (see table below).

Share of vote in 2008 national election (%)
Current polling projection (%) (Karmasin/Profil Poll, 24.09.13)
Social democrats (SPÖ)
People’s Party (ÖVP)
Freedom Party (FPÖ)
The Greens (GRÜNE)
Team Stronach
Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ)

Most election-watchers believe a continuation of the current coalition is the most likely oucome. (One Austrian polling analyst gives this a 76% chance). But the result will also be dependent on how many of the smaller parties make it over the 4% parliamentary threshold. The two main parties could also turn to the Greens to prop up their coalition. Having said that, the Greens oppose the EU’s Fiscal Treaty, which may throw a spanner into the works.

So the more interesting element of this election, then, is that about 30% of Austrians are projected vote for the FPÖ, Team Stronach and the BZÖ: all parties who officially support the break-up of the eurozone .

More about their policies below:

The FPÖ, supports an Austrian exit from the eurozone and a referendum on the eurozone bailout fund ESM.

The BZÖ, supports Austria leaving the euro and joining a Northern eurozone with Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Team Stronach, founded by Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach a year ago, has done some flip-flopping on the euro. It initially floated the idea of eurozone countries having their own currencies, with the euro as a parallel currency. But now, the party’s manifesto states that it wants to “revise, abolish or reconstruct” the euro. In its own words, it has an “explicitly eurocritical position,” and that “the artificial unification of Europe has failed.” It’s won over 10% in regional election – not so bad for a newcomer.

Similar to Germany, a grand coalition government would mean no big shift in Austria’s eurozone policy. So the real significance of this election, then, is that in Austria –a nation whose economy is key to underpinning the euro –  almost a third of voters want to leave it behind –  or at least vote for a party that does.

For additional analysis on the Austrian National Election see a blog post by our partner organisation, Open Europe Berlin.

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