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Hofer sceptical about ÷VP's future impact

A renowned political strategist has warned that the People’s Party (ÖVP) could be "pulverised" in the approaching election campaign.

Thomas Hofer writes in a guest article for political magazine profil that the conservative party might find it difficult to position itself in the expected war of words between Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann and Freedom Party (FPÖ) boss Heinz-Christian Strache.

Hofer claimed that the SPÖ would try to label Strache’s faction as an evil factor in Austrian politics. Top-tier representatives of the right-wing faction have been criticised over the years for demonising Muslims and foreigners in general. Several FPÖ parliament delegates (MPs) are members in far-right student fraternities. Some of these groups consider the end of World War Two (WWII) not as liberation from the Nazis but as a defeat.

The SPÖ focused on making aware of its initiatives for more social balance such as fair labour circumstances for the working class and various improvements for young families already in the past federal and provincial elections. However, the party had to accept losses in most of the ballots. It garnered 29.3 per cent in the federal vote of 2008 – a decrease of six per cent compared to 2006. The SPÖ’s Viennese department bagged 44.3 per cent in the city hall ballot of 2010, down from 49.1 per cent in 2005.

Analysts expect both Faymann and Strache to accuse banks and financial market speculators of recklessness on the campaign trail. The SPÖ boss might warn voters at the same time from supporting the FPÖ due to the faction’s alleged intentions of creating an atmosphere of hatred between Austria’s various social, ethnic and religious groups.

Hofer claims in his article for profil that nothing is lost yet for the ÖVP – but he also expresses doubts about whether the party will manage to claim the thematic leadership in the pre-election campaign scenario. Hofer also points out that some ministers failed to fully support ÖVP chief Michael Spindelegger in some regards in the recent past.

The ÖVP’s share dropped by 8.3 per cent from 2006 to 2008 when it bagged only 26 per cent of the votes. Experts think that the party will not only fail to achieve a decent result in the next federal election because of the various corruption allegations but also due to its consistent weakness in urban areas. The ÖVP’s Viennese branch garnered just 13.9 per cent in the city parliament vote of 2010. The party had never performed worse in a Viennese election ever before.

Only 23 per cent of Austrians would support the ÖVP at the moment, according to investigations by OGM. The research group found that the SPÖ might win 28 per cent – as much as the FPÖ. The Greens range around 14 per cent, according to the OGM poll. The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) has chances to win five per cent.

Polls also indicate that not only the ÖVP is going through a crisis. A survey by Karmasin shows that the reputation of the Austrian SPÖ-ÖVP government is worsening as well. Karmasin, a Viennese public opinion agency, asked Austrians who they were currently trusting less than one year ago. Sixty-three per cent mentioned the government coalition while 43 per cent said this was also the case regarding the under-fire juridical system.

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