Austrian coalition parties punished in provincial election


Austria’s two ruling coalition parties took more punishment in a provincial election on Sunday, after clinging on to a majority in last year’s nation poll, as voters turned to the greens and the new Neos party.

 The Alpine province of Vorarlberg is the first of four more upcoming regional polls and a test for the coalition partners, the SPO and OVP, which have dominated government in Austria for 70 years.

The conservative OVP, or People’s Party, lost its absolute majority and went down 9 percentage points to around 42 percent. It now has to look for a coalition partner in Vorarlberg.

The social-democrat SPO, party of Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann, recorded one of its worst results since 1945 with around 9 percent, according to state broadcaster ORF.

The Islam-critical and socially conservative FPO, in opinion polls across Austria slightly ahead of the two centrist parties, got just over 23 percent.

The last poll in Vorarlberg took place in 2009.

The Neos group, which burst into parliament last year, won around 7%. It stands for a slimmer state and opposes Austria’s convention of distributing most public posts between social-democrats and conservatives.

The Neos leader, Matthias Strolz, is from Vorarlberg and is known for practising yoga and spending days fasting in the Vienna woods to deal with stress.

The Greens won around 17 percent of votes.

The coalition government has undergone a reshuffle in recent weeks which took the OVP’s Hans Joerg Schelling into the finance ministry after his predecessor quit in a row over tax reform.

The reform is high up on the priorities of all parties, with most agreeing that the income tax rate, currently starting at 36.5 percent for income over €11,000 should be lowered.

Austria, whose banks are heavily exposed to Russia and Eastern Europe, wants to adhere to the EU-wide rule of keeping its deficit, pushed up by state aid to the financial sector, under 3 percent of gross domestic product. 

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