Five years of Schwarz-Blau 

The current Austrian government coalition between the conservative ÖVP (party-colour black [schwarz]) and the far-right FPÖ (party-colour blue [blau]) was sworn in five years ago, on 4 February 2000. At the bottom of this post, some links to commentary on the anniversary in the Austrian press.

Many Austrians share my political distance to the government for the fact that it includes the FPÖ. That party, in the way it is since Jörg Haider's rise to the chairmanship in 1986, cannot represent me politically. It gained 27% in 1999, 10% in 2002, and current polls see it at 7%. FPÖ ministers in the government have fared worse than average: the important ministry of transport, infrastructure and technology has witnessed four different FPÖ ministers since 2000, for a reason. The equally important ministry of social affairs, also headed by FPÖ, has suffered from party-political infighting, poor communication, and shaky legislation.

As a right-wing government following on the heels of Austria's longliving post-war 'big' coalition between ÖVP and the socialdemocrat SPÖ, the initial impetus of the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition was to shake off some of the consensual paralysis in economic policy. The coalition touted a zero-deficit as a goal for its own sake during its first term in government. Now, in the second term, deficits have returned for the sake of a tax-cut, the big economic topic this time around. I consider both initiatives as basically positive for the sake of economic sustainability. In a way, Austria needed an economically right-wing government in this period (at least one without the SPÖ in its old mindset) to adapt to the economic present. Something similar can be said about the painful but necessary push for pension reform.

Official government policy has been less influenced by the far right than what was feared initially. The big international outcry over the FPÖ's inclusion in the government may be to thank for that.

Nevertheless, the cultural atmosphere of politics in this country has been impregnated with conservative, and sometimes also far-right ideology to its detriment. Beyond crisis management and necessary adaptation to external changes, it is hard to see what vision of change for a better future this government espouses. (It is symptomatic that education and R&D-policy are two of the areas where it has fared worst.) Because of that, I still don't know why I should support this government for reasons other than a fear that the alternatives might be worse. Conservatives seem to believe that this is enough as a motivation for political engagement. In that sense, I'm not one of them.

Die Presse: Fünf Jahre Schwarz-Blau: Das Experiment ist gelungen
Der Falter: Fünf Jahre Schwarz-Blau
Profil: Blues, Schweiß und Tränen
Der Standard: Bürgerliche Umarmung


Jetzt sind es schon 6 Jahre. Hoffenlicht nicht mehr lange, und es ist vorbei
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