Radical change in the ÖVP
Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz wants an amicable end to the political marriage of convenience between the Social Democrats and the conservatives. The conservative People's Party (ÖVP) has made him its leader and granted him far-reaching powers within the party, including at the state level. Can he reform the ÖVP and win the next election?
Kurz right to make grab for more power
Sebastian Kurz is not only the new leader of the People's Party (ÖVP) but has also secured the right to put together his own list of candidates in the parliamentary election and to veto candidates at the national level. Die Presse defends the decision to give him these new powers:
“Every boss of a large company in Austria has it: the right to choose the staff and his company's strategic course. ... The ÖVP chairman is now getting the same. It's no longer the heads of department in the individual states and the internal groups [e.g. the committees of workers or the economic committees] but the boss who does the hiring. … [Kurz] at least deserves a fair chance to show that as ÖVP chairman with (sole) responsibility you can get things moving without being all too hampered by the associations and individual states. If it works out, this move could also set an example for the Republic. Because everyone knows the country suffers from the fact that decisions made by the federal government are watered down in the states or taken there in the first place.”
Power struggles destroyed the party
Kurz has asked the regional heads of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) to allow him to put forward a list for the next parliamentary elections under a new name, the List Sebastian Kurz - the New People's Party. This move to distance himself from the ÖVP was prompted by the party's inability to reform, the Süddeutsche Zeitung comments:
“The ÖVP was incapable of governing and divided into so many power blocs that it needs a complete overhaul and perhaps dissolution. What isn't good is the timing and the way it's being done: a year before the election and a half year after defining a joint work programme, the coalition and its work are being ended because the power struggles within the ÖVP got out of hand. This development was accelerated in the end to boost the party's chances in the election. But the top dogs in the ÖVP, and in particular Kurz, accusing the Social Democratic Party of waging a constant campaign before it even begins and blaming the Social Democrats for the alienation is hypocritical.”