Vienna’s first ‘Social-Liberal Coalition’: SPÖ begins negotiations with NEOS

This photo from the year 2018 seems like a prophecy: The Vienna City Hall in pink, the color of the NEOS. [EPA-EFE | Florian Wieser]

The board of Austria’s SPÖ party has decided: Vienna’s Social Democrats will start coalition negotiations with the liberal NEOS on Tuesday (27 October). Thus ends the ten-year era of SPÖ-Green rule in the Austrian capital. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Mayor Michael Ludwig had already spoken of the “first social-liberal coalition” in Vienna and was pleased to break new ground with this “progress coalition,” he told a press conference after the SPÖ meeting.

This will be the NEOS’ second participation in government; in Salzburg they are already represented by a state councilor.

Differences in economic policy

In terms of content, the parties have some differences, especially in economic policy. In contrast to social democracy, the NEOS advocate significantly freer markets and more flexible labour rights. They are critical of social partnership, particularly the legally anchored roles of the chamber of commerce and the trade unions.

The latter are an important pillar of the SPÖ – and especially for Mayor Ludwig, who won the election for Vienna’s party leader in 2017 thanks to the support of the Viennese trade unions.

Social Democrats win, far-right collapses in Vienna elections

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.

A core theme of the NEOS, however, is education policy. Christoph Wiederkehr, the top candidate of the Viennese NEOS and possibly the next vice mayor, repeatedly called for more public funds for schools during the election campaign.

Even before the election, Wiederkehr had stressed that he wanted to become a city councillor for education, until now a Social Democratic portfolio.

Transparency is also an important topic for Wiederkehr. “I want a transparent state, not transparent citizens,” he said at his first press conference after the SPÖ decision on Tuesday. He stressed that education must be the top priority in a possible coalition agreement.

Negotiations until mid-November

Both Ludwig and Wiederkehr conceded that the negotiations starting now were open-ended. During the exploratory talks of the past weeks, however, there were “many intersections,” said the NEOS top candidate. and added he was “confident that the negotiations will go well.”

Both sides expect the coalition talks to be concluded by mid-November.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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