Leftist Victory In Styria
...and the end of the Haider era.
In the Southeastern Austrian province of Styria (Austria has a federal system very much like Germany), conservatives lost the election for the first time in 50 years. The results, in percentages and regional assembly seats:
- SPÖ (Social Democrats): 41.72% (+9.40), 25 seats (+6)
- ÖVP (conservatives): 38.66% (-8.63%), 24 seats (-3)
- KPÖ (communists): 6.32% (+5.29%), 4 seats (+4)
- Grüne (Greens): 4.68% (-0.93%), 3 seats (+/-0)
- FPÖ (ex liberal, populist far-right): 4.59% (-7.82%), 0 seats (-4/-7 before spit, see BZÖ)
- LH (list of breakaway ÖVP member): 2.04% (LH+ÖVP: -6.59%)
- BZÖ (FPÖ breakaways): 1.72% (BZÖ+FPÖ: -6.10%)
Just as in Germany, the hard left managed to take away the votes of the desperates - but it is more notewrothy, because the communists weren't in the Styrian regional assembly since 1970. The Austrian Communists have troubles in the federal party, a tainted recent history (guarding the black money of the East German SED), some extreme anti-EU members, and some undying Stalinists, but the Styrian communists are a separate breed. They have a strong base in Graz (20.75% in the last city assembly elections) and a popular leader in the person of one Ernest Kaltenegger, who made it custom for party officials to publish their personal finances every year and donate most (yes, over 50%) of their income.
These elections also signal the final end of that ever-self-reinventing far-right demagogue, Jörg Haider. Earlier this year, his big stunt was to abadon and decapitate his party, found a new one (the BZÖ) with loyal members, and take over the FPÖ's place in the federal government. But apparently, this was too obviously brazen for the faithful - indeed the fact that only in his home province Carinthia did the majority of party members follow him was an indication. Also, Haider's attempt to spin the change as the abadonment of the hard far-right was quickly ruined by one BZÖ guy who called WWII deserters murderers and called for fairness for 'the victims of the post-war Nazi witch hunt', and then another who denied the existence of gas chambers...
Leftist parties won, but given the seat distribution and the tepid centrism of the SPÖ, it looks likely that Styria will continue to have a Grand Coalition, only with 5 SPÖ and 4 ÖVP ministers instead of 3:5 (+1 FPÖ) and an SPÖ head.
Finally, I wonder how this will influence the issue of the Semmering-Basistunnel, a rail tunnel under a much-frequented pass (Vienna's gateway to the South) at the border with Lower Austria province. That one was blocked by the SPÖ member head of Lower Austria for a decade, who claimed environmental damage. However, for that he repeatedly changed the province's laws, fudged laws that the constitutional court repeatedly quashed; and in the meantime, he allowed the construction of a highway along the same route, with magnitudes higher environmental damage both during and after construction - I leave it to the dear leader to guess his real motives...