ÖVP-BZÖ-FPÖ: Strengthening the Family 

The FPÖ-BZÖ divorce is not so terribly important. We are talking about the political representation of a voter pool of less than 10% in a small European country. One - or both - of these parties happen to be part of the current coalition, but with little influence on the policies of the government.

The established facts at this point: The senior coalition partner ÖVP has decided to proceed with the current coalition, now with the newly formed BZÖ, at least for the time being. The BZÖ manages to secure the government majority in the first chamber of parliament, while the government has lost its majority in the second chamber.

This whole situation is good for the ÖVP. If BZÖ and FPÖ fight each other to death until elections in autumn 2006, the ÖVP will end up owning the entire right of the political spectrum, and thus remain clearly ahead of the SPÖ (socialdemocrats). Alternatively, if the BZÖ (or the FPÖ) manages to stabilise the old FPÖ voter pool, then the ÖVP is again in a position to dictate the terms of any coalition, as it was after the last election, because only the ÖVP has a free choice of coalition partners. An SPÖ-BZÖ, and certainly a SPÖ-FPÖ coalition is almost unimaginable. One can suspect that the ÖVP will lead a different partner to the altar next time round (likely the Greens), but it needs a stable right-wing alternative to be able to act as single author of the marriage contract. A strengthening BZÖ would take votes away from the SPÖ, thus reducing the only threat to ÖVP-rule, an SPÖ-Greens coalition.

The prolongation of the government is also vitally important for BZÖ and FPÖ, who will need all the time they can get to define themselves for the voters. Beyond what I discussed as likely programs of the two in my last post, an interesting document [DE] has surfaced today, of a secret pact between rivals Haider and Strache signed on March 21st. Their last attempt at a compromise, according to which the two rivals would have shared the leadership of the FPÖ almost equally, it spells out their common denominator in terms of thematic priorities. These were: 'strengthening the family', 'securing the homeland for the autochtonous population', law and order, as well as, added in Haider's handwriting, 'a further round of tax reform'. Expect a lot of competition in strengthening the family then.

Chancellor Schüssel has conceded [DE] that he faced a "difficult moment" and a "dramatic situation" when confronted yesterday with the decision whether to dissolve the coalition goverment and head for elections. Yet, "after discussions with party colleagues and also representatives of the business world" one had reached the conclusion to "conform to the general request [allgemeinen Wunsch]" to continue the government's work for Austria. With no further comment on Schüssel's perceptiveness, let me conclude by mentioning an online poll at the website of popular right-wing daily Krone, which showed that 85% of the responses were in favour of early general elections.


It's all been a deeply depressing farce, but no worse than der olle Westenthaler calling Peter Pilz a Wiederbetatiger. By the way, what became of Peter Westenthaler?

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Peter Westenthaler: chairman of the FPÖ faction in parliament turns (after Knittelfeld) briefly unemployed, turns (enter Frank Stronach) chairman of the Austrian Football Association, turns (Stronach again) manager at Stronach's company Magna, turns ... well, Haider has confirmed the rumours that Peter is looking for something new, don't be shocked if you meet him again as acting chairman of the BZÖ (Bündnis zur Zusammenarbeit mit der ÖVP).
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