Austrian elections: The grand coalition or…?

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. It seems that the coalition Social Dems. plus ÖVP will last also after the election. Or would you say there is another possible scenario and what might be the biggest challenge for Social Dems-ÖVP coalition?

2. It the current coalition will continue to govern do you expect any changes in terms of policies and personalities or basically it will be more of the same?

Answers:

Reinhard Heinisch, Professor of Austrian Politics in European Perspective, Department of Political Science, Chair, University of Salzburg

1. This is indeed the most likely scenario. Although the far-right FPÖ has been gaining ground (20% in the polls) steadily over the past weeks, it is unlikely to catch up with the ÖVP ( at around 24% in the polls). The reason for the Freedom Party’s growing strength has been the weakening of the Team Stronach (a party formed by the Austro-Canadian billionaire of the same name) following Frank Stronach’s poor performance in TV debates. There is also a slight possibility that both major parties will fall short of 50% and would thus require a third party in addition to SPÖ and ÖVP, which would most likely be the Greens. This would be a new scenario in Austrian national politics. Incidentally, the SP (27% in the polls) has definitively ruled out coalescing with the FP. The VP has not ruled out coalescing with any of the other parties.

2. Essentially yes, but there is a growing number of issues over which the grand coalition parties have remained deadlocked and that would in some way have to be tackled. In fact, a reform of the Austrian school system, blocked thus far by unions close to the VP, may move ahead even if the VP returns to power. In terms of foreign and EU policy, continuity is all but assured. This would also be true if the Greens became part of the government. Only if any of the bourgeois or rightwing parties were to become part of the government, would we see a change in the policy toward Europe.

There is little doubt that Faymann will remain chancellor. Whether Mr. Spindlegger remains in place will entirely depend on his showing. If his party were to drop to third place, he has already announced his resignation. With respect to the other party leaders, that too depends on how well the do. None of them is assured a continued life at the top, but thus far nobody in any particular danger either. At the cabinet level several heads are bound role and new people are likely to be appointed ministers.

Andrei Markovits, Professor of Political Science,University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

1. Yes. Meaning yes, the grand coalition will continue in Austria, what else is new? I mean political scientists have come to call grand coalitions all over the world as THE AUSTRIAN OPTION or AUSTRIAN SOLUTION. Other than in Switzerland, where such arrangements have a different historical tradition and even a structural exigency, there are few, if any, countries where such grand coalitions have not become an aberration but constitute the norm. So yes, continuation of the boring normal!

2. No. Meaning nothing much will change. Why should it? Austria can rightly call itself the ISLAND OF THE BLESSED — die INSEL DER SEELIGEN — in the turmoiled sea of EUROPE.

Anton PelinkaProfessor of Nationalism Studies and Political Science, Central European University

1. Another scenario is possible but not probable.

2. The old/new coalition will change some of its personnel and promise some innovations. I don’t thing the new coalition (if it is still consisting of the same two parties) will be significantly different from the old coalition.

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