Social Democrats win, far-right collapses in Vienna elections

For the next five years, the Vienna City Hall will continue to stand under the sign of the red rose of the Social Democrats. [EPA-EFE | Christian Bruna]

The recent Vienna election was a great victory for Social Democrats while the far-right FPÖ suffered a massive crash, losing two-thirds of support. The final result will be available Tuesday evening (13 October), but coalition options are already clear. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Vienna has voted, giving the social democratic SPÖ a clear win with 42%. Not only did the party defend its historic leading position in the Austrian capital, but it even managed to gain 2.6 percentage points, even before the final vote count.

Mayor Michael Ludwig is thus in a comfortable position and can choose his junior partner for the coalition. While there are three options mathematically, only two are realistic.

The second strongest force was the conservative ÖVP, the party of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, with 18%. The party succeeded in doubling the 2015 result, probably mainly due to the implosion of the right-wing FPÖ, which plunged to 9%, less than a third of the votes in the last election.

The trend from the country’s EU and national elections appears to have repeated itself: FPÖ voters who turned their backs on the scandal-ridden right-wing party ran to Kurz’s ÖVP, which has been moving to the right in recent years.

Could SPÖ's Burgenland win be beacon of 'red hope' for Austria's social democrats?

In Burgenland’s state elections, socialist Hans-Peter Doskozil (SPÖ) won the absolute majority, bringing a ray of hope to the Austrian socialist party which has suffered a multitude of defeats recently. One would think the party could learn something from this, but a party insider thinks this is unlikely. EURACTIV Germany reports.

SPÖ-Green coalition most likely

However, the SPÖ has already ruled out forming a coalition with the ÖVP. The wounds of the last coalition break at the federal level are too deep. After Kurz took over the conservatives in 2017, he broke the last grand coalition with the SPÖ, called new elections and brought the FPÖ into government.

To this day, the federal SPÖ has not recovered from this: it is struggling with its opposition role and suffers from internal strife.

The most probable continuation of the current government of the SPÖ and Greens, known as red-green after the parties colours. The two parties have been ruling Vienna for two legislative periods, and both have now won, with Greens adding 2.2 percentage points to 14%.

Birgit Hebein, Green deputy mayor and the party’s top candidate, sees this as “a mandate to continue red-green.” There seems to be little to criticise, but mayor Ludwig has not committed himself and is keeping another option open: a coalition with the liberal NEOS.

They reached around 8%, also an increase of 1.7 percentage points over the previous ballot. There were some preliminary preludes already during the campaign, and the mayor praised their result as a positive “surprise” of the election campaign.

 However, some observers suspect that Ludwig is only flirting with the NEOS to sell himself more expensively to the Greens when it comes to the division of portfolios.

There are deep rifts between NEOS and SPÖ, especially in economy. The NEOS are the most liberal party in Austria. They want to reduce bureaucracy, keep businesses open on Sundays and are sceptical about the Austrian social partnership of the Chamber of Commerce and the trade unions.

The latter, a cornerstone of the SPÖ, are strong supporters of Ludwig. The fact that he was elected mayor in 2017 by the party is largely thanks to the trade unions.

A red-blue coalition with the FPÖ is impossible. Mathematically, the election cards, which are supposed to be counted by Tuesday evening, could make a partnership possible, but Ludwig already rejected the right-wing party during the election campaign.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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