Austria: Freedom Party strengthened in Vienna elections

Only minor gains for Social Democrats (SPÖ), Socialist Alternative needed

When the newly formed BZÖ (Alliance for the Future), led by Jörg Haider, formerly one of the most prominent figures of the right wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), split from the Freedom Party (FPÖ) earlier this year, some on the Left thought that this would mean the end of the Freedom Party. Contrary to that, SLP had warned that this was not the case. While BZÖ remained in the national government and thus is associated with anti-social politics etc., the Freedom Party seems to have managed a partial recovery after their vote had significantly dropped while part of the national government. With 14.9% the FPÖ is still behind their peak results which triggered the resistance movement in 2000 but nevertheless the vote is much better than anticipated in the opinion polls.

It is not at all clear that the FPÖ is going to automatically repeat its electoral success in future elections but it will boost the party’s confidence and will be seen as a confirmation of the FPÖ’s policy.

Under the leadership of Strache, the FPÖ has shifted to the right and is focussing on issues such as racism and immigration. Its outright anti-immigrant, anti-homosexual election campaign as well as the fact that they are attracting more open neo-fascist elements should alert immigrants, trade unionists and left activists. The FPÖ has also been able to exploit the government’s opposition to Turkey joining the EU. They played on the fears by ordinary working class people of increased immigration into Austria and whipped up a racist campaign mainly directed against Turkish migrant workers.

The trade union movement in Austria has great responsibilities on their shoulders. They need to counter the racist lies of the FPÖ and other Bourgeois parties. They need to put forward a campaign and a programme that can cut across the divide and rule strategy of the ruling class and their political allies. In a skilful manner, they need to take up the fears of working class people and for example lead a campaign for equal wages, against precarious working conditions and against big companies defying national wage bargaining agreements.

Rejection of the government parties

The parties forming the national government, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and Jörg Haider’s Alliance for the Future (BZÖ) received a joint result of fewer than 20%. With 1.15%, the BZÖ’s result is lower than that of the Communist Party (KPÖ). At the same time, the KPÖ has not been capable of seizing the full potential which exists for a left alternative.

The relatively weak results of the SPÖ and the Greens as well as the low turn out (59.98% compared to 66% in the previous elections) show that they are not seen as a real and substantial opposition to the government parties. This is particularly reflected in the weak results of the SPÖ in the big working class districts of Favoriten or Simmering.

More than anything, the election results bring home the urgent need for a left alternative. The elections in Germany but also in Steiermark/ Styria (a regional state in Austria where the Communist Party’s vote went up to 6.3% from 1% in the previous elections) have shown that there is a potential for a new force on the left. Some polls estimate the potential as high as 20%.

However, the KPÖ’s result in Vienna indicates that they haven’t been able to build on their success in Steiermark/ Styria. They even stayed behind the 2% predicted in the polls. It is unfortunate but quite possible that the KPÖ will not be able to use the two mandates they won to help and advance the struggles of working class people and to spread socialist ideas.

The SLP stood candidates in three Vienna Districts as well as in the Zentrum (city centre) constituency. As we expected, our votes do not mirror our dynamic election campaign and the positive and sympathetic response we received at our street stalls and other public campaigning activities. And more importantly, it also does not reflect the number of new members we were able to win over to socialist ideas. With a citywide result of 0.02%, we have been able to improve our results compared to the local elections in 2001. SLP had a clear socialist profile in the election campaign and was the only party to organise public activities against the racist election campaign of the Freedom Party (FPÖ). We come out of this election campaign strengthened and have laid the basis for future success.

The task of building a new socialist mass workers’ party in Austria still remains.

SLP will continue to campaign for the setting up of such a new party. The fact that we have been able to build our forces in this election campaign is an indication that there is an interest in socialist ideas, especially amongst young people.

An article in German can be read on

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October 2005