- Newspapers (see blogroll) headline that today is decision day for the future of the government coalition. Chancellor Schüssel wants unspecified 'guarantees' from the BZÖ leadership, but if he gets them, he seems ready to continue the coalition with a party that has not received a single vote in elections so far. The guarantees will likely include a commitment to fulfill the coalition treaty and the assurance that the majority in parliament remains intact.
- The majority in the first chamber of parliament seems secure, of the 18 FPÖ-MPs only one is expected to remain committed to the FPÖ, the others will move to the BZÖ.
- However, it seems likely that the government will lose its majority in the second chamber of parliament, which broadly reflects the regions, and therefore the regional party branches. The goverment currently has a majority of two, yet of the 5 FPÖ representatives two are Viennese loyal to expected new right-wing leader Strache, and the loyalty of one is uncertain. While a majority in the second chamber is not strictly necessary for a government, this might turn out to be the trigger for early new elections.
- The right-wingers have rallied in the "old" FPÖ, with Strache denouncing the BZÖ-split-off as "high treason". He accused the BZÖ of being under the tutelage of big capital, referring to the rumours that Austro-Canadian billionaire industrialist Frank Stronach may provide financing for the BZÖ. Stronach returned to Austria some years ago, bought major stakes in Austrian industry as well as control of the football league and employs several failed politicians from FPÖ and SPÖ.
- Programmatically, one has to expect a programme of xenophobia, EU-criticism, anti-Americanism and attacks on "big capital" from the remaining FPÖ. Likely even nastier than the FPÖ ever was so far, but for the same reason probably not with mass appeal. The die-hard right-nationalist camp is estimated at 2-5% of the electorate.
- As for the programme of the BZÖ, little is known and everything will hinge on Jörg Haider's fancy. He has previously said that the core theme of the new movement should be job-creation, which will probably bring up things like his old flat-tax proposal and other sweets for industry, as well as populist calls for more state investment. Haider said yesterday that EU-critism would be another important element. Xenophobia will also be there no doubt, but not to an extent that could provoke the conservatives to end the coalition - Haider must aim for elections at the end of term in fall 2006 in order to have enough time to build up polling potential.
How did the last polls in Austria look like? (I'm not only curious about FPÖ, but the other two bigs and Greens too)
A few days ago, market-institute for News-magazine:
SPÖ (socialdemocrats) 41%
ÖVP (conservatives) 40%
Wow. SPÖ beats ÖVP despite more voters deserting the FPÖ.
...on second thought... may it be possible that a significant number of working-class FPÖlers switched to the SPÖ? If yes, was there a bait for them (some veiled anti-immigration rhetoric for example)?
according to general wisdom, övp beat spö at the last elections because more disaffected fpö voters switched to the fpö's coalition partner övp than to spö. since then, recent regional elections have shown fpö voters moving to spö rather - or 'back to spö' actually, because the larger part of the fpö's rise until 1999 came at the cost of the spö. at its peak, fpö was the strongest party among working class voters. back then, the spö tried to play the xenophobic card ad nauseam, but that always backfired by putting the fpö's rhetoric ever more in the mainstream. i'm not sure about the inclinations of the remaining winnable percentage points of fpö die-hards, but i suspect they are rather of the conservative type.