Government crisis in Austria

Austria's ruling coalition between the social democratic SPÖ and conservative ÖVP has been plunged into a crisis by the resignation of ÖVP vice chancellor Mitterlehner. New elections are increasingly likely. The conservatives will come out winning, commentators predict.

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Jutarnji list (HR) /

An intrepid ÖVP

The government crisis suits the conservative ÖVP just fine, Jutarnji list believes:

“The conservatives apparently believe it is the right time for new elections, now that the far right has been defeated in France and the Netherlands and the Social Democrats are losing their momentum in Germany. Kurz is extremely popular and voters are calming down now that the refugee crisis is over thanks to him. The conservatives hope to become the strongest party and be able to choose whomever they want as coalition partner. No doubt such a plan entails certain dangers. But in politics it's a popular option to take risks because it shows courage and determination. And voters appreciate such qualities.”

Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

The FPÖ is back

What would happen in the event of a snap election? Mladá fronta dnes speculates:

“The protest party FPÖ, which came very close to securing the presidency, has long been leading the polls. This makes its return to government conceivable, this time as the strongest party. In both the socialist SPÖ and the People's Party ÖVP there are those who pragmatically favour cooperation with the FPÖ. With the current Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who is among the country's most popular politicians and probably the only acceptable representative of his not very popular party, the People's Party is closest to the positions of the FPÖ. It is a distinct possibility that after being elected to leader of the People's Party and vice chancellor, Kurz would simply continue in a government led by FPÖ chief Heinz-Christian Strache. Or the 2000 model could be repeated, with the FPÖ setting up Kurz as chancellor in order to be part of the government.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

The search for new coalition partners

The Social Democrats and conservatives in the government are hopelessly at odds, taz observes:

“The power cartel SPÖ-ÖVP, which once represented over 90 percent of the population, has had its day. And the prospect of a new edition after the next elections is seen as a dangerous threat. With the realignment of the ÖVP and the resignation of party leader and vice chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, new elections this autumn are practically unavoidable. ... On almost all key issues where reforms are due - education, taxes, state surveillance - the parties disagree about what to do and whose interests to serve. Only on the question of how to stop the flood of refugees is everyone dancing to the FPÖ's tune. ... What the next government will look like is hard to say, nevertheless both the ÖVP and the SPÖ would rather bring the FPÖ on board than give working together another shot.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Coalition with FPÖ increasingly likely

The Süddeutsche Zeitung explains the reasons behind Mitterlehner's move:

“The Austrian vice chancellor resigned because he was tired of being asked not about his work but about when he would bow out and make way for his younger rival. Sebastian Kurz, the popular foreign minister, never officially applied to replace Mitterlehner; the wrangling between the top dogs went on behind the scenes, in keeping with the ÖVP's self-destructive tradition. Clearly the number of those who want the party strengthened and a coalition with the [national-conservative] FPÖ under Kurz has steadily grown. Mitterlehner would likely have put up more resistance to an ÖVP-FPÖ coalition. If the SPÖ, which doesn't want new elections, now warns about the FPÖ making a bid for power, many conservatives who support Kurz will respond with a shrug.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

An acid test far from the glamour of diplomacy

Kurz must now show his mettle as vice chancellor, Salzburger Nachrichten believes:

“Sebastian Kurz must leave the international stage and attend to the day-to-day grind of governing. Now he can and must show what he is capable of. Until now the foreign and integration minister was known as a successful forger of international cooperation on containing immigration. As vice chancellor, however, he will have to handle financial and economic issues, education, and agriculture as well as social, health and housing policy. In all civilised countries foreign ministers are among the most popular politicians. Voters see them as glamorous representatives of their country abroad and don't associate them with unpleasant realities like tax hikes or subsidy cuts.”