Austria

Austrian government collapses – snap election in September

Elections have been brought forward to early September in Austria, following a massive rift between the two coalition partners ÖVP and FPÖ. This was triggered by a compromising video that emerged from 2017, in which Heinz-Christian Strache, Vice-Chancellor and head of the FPÖ, and Johann Gudenus, FPÖ faction leader, offered an apparent niece of a Russian oligarch government contracts in return for election aid. Former Minister of the Interior, Herbert Kickl, who was General Secretary at the time, is also under pressure. The scandal could also have repercussions at federal state level and lead to a breakup of the SPÖ/FPÖ coalition in Burgenland, among other things. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) wants to continue leading the government until September; based on current information, in collaboration with the current FPÖ ministers. A grand coalition between the ÖVP and its SPÖ junior partner appears to be emerging – once again. According to the…

Austria: Grand Coalition saves itself with a package of measures called “Pro Austria”

After days of negotiations, the SPÖ and the ÖVP, the two parties in coalition, managed to agree on a joint agenda for the remaining one and a half years of the current legislative period. In this way, the coalition partners managed to overcome the political rift which had developed. Had the negotiations failed, the risk of the Grand Coalition breaking down prematurely would have increased greatly. The result would presumably have been new elections, an outcome that neither of the two formerly large popular parties would have wanted to see. In this case, the right-wing populist FPÖ would have had a good chance of emerging as the strongest party in parliament, thereby gaining the right to lead any future government. Federal Chancellor and SPÖ Chairman Kern and ÖVP Chairman Mitterlehner have now presented a joint (economic) programme that reflects the interests of both the Social Democrats and the Conservatives. The…

Austria: essentially no Agenda 2010

In his eagerly-awaited debut keynote speech yesterday the Austrian Chancellor Kern unveiled his “Plan A” for Austria. Kern sees the programme for “affluence, security & good spirits” that he outlined in the speech as an ambitious longer-term social democratic plan that is intended to tackle Austria’s structural problems, above all its increased unemployment.   Ahead of the speech a lot had been written suggesting that Kern would unveil a visionary programme based substantially on Germany’s Agenda 2010, which Schröder, the Social Democratic Chancellor at the time, had pushed through in the years 2003 to 2005.   But Kern’s message falls far short of the high claims that have been touted around in the past. As regards the contents of the plan, Kern tries to close the gap between business-minded reforms and welfare feel-good policies. In concrete terms, the Chancellor talks about taking the pressure off the economy by cutting non-wage…