Posted on May 25, 2011

Austria Far-Right Tops Opinion Polls

AFP, May 20, 2011

Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, the FPOe, would win the most votes if there were a general election this weekend, according to the results of a new opinion poll released Friday.

The FPOe would secure 29 percent of the votes if there were a general election on Sunday, overtaking for the first time the Social Democrats with 28 pecent and the conservative People’s Party or OeVP with 23 percent, according to a poll by the OGM institute on behalf of the daily Kurier.

The environmentalist Green party and another far-right party, the BZOe, would each win 13 percent of the votes.

The current coalition government under Social Democrat Chancellor Werner Faymann, which took power in December 2008, is made up of the Social Democrats and OeVP parties in a power-sharing deal.

The head of the OGM institute, Wolfgang Bachmayer, attributed the FPOe’s current strength, not only to a wider disillusionment with politics, but with the current coalition government in particular.

Furthermore, “the showings have undoubtedly been influenced by the current debate over the statements by Erste Bank chief executive Andreas Treichl, the euro crisis and the Greek debt crisis,” Bachmayer told the newspaper.

Erste Bank chief Treichl triggered a storm of controversy this week by saying politicians were “too stupid” to understand the economy.

And FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache has been campaigning for months to kick Greece out of the eurozone.

Quizzed as to whom they would vote for if they could elect the chancellor directly, 24 percent of the poll’s 805 respondents said they would choose the current chancellor Faymann, 18 percent the current deputy chancellor Michael Spindelegger and 16 percent would vote for Strache.

The FPOe came second in local municipal elections in Vienna last October, winning 26 percent of the votes. The ruling Social Democrats finally opted for a coalition with the environmentalist Greens.

A poll at the beginning of May suggested that 43 percent of the population wanted the FPOe to participate in the next national government following the next general elections in 2013.

The far-right has already been in government in Austria: the FPOe under its charismatic leader, the late Joerg Haider, was the junior coalition partner with the conservative OeVP between 2000 and 2006 under then chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.