Austria heading for a right-wing coalition

The Austrians will elect a new parliament on Sunday - a year earlier than scheduled. The conservative ÖVP is leading the polls with 33 percent, followed by the right-wing populist FPÖ (27 percent) and the social-democratic SPÖ (23 percent). Meanwhile the scandal over faked Facebook pages has turned the campaign into a mudslinging contest. What is Europe's take on the elections to the National Assembly?

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

The bitter legacy of the eternal grand coalition

Austria's post-war political traditions are dead - and the far right is dancing on their grave, writes Deutschlandfunk:

“Apart from the Kreisky years and the black-blue chaos years under Chancellor Schüssel, who got into bed with Haider's FPÖ, the grand coalition was the political model of choice in Austria. It guaranteed stability after World War II. ... But the grand coalition divided the Alpine republic into political zones of influence: red or black, that was the rather limited choice of colours. A gateway for cronyism and back room deals. That made the FPÖ big, as big as it is now. ... A marked shift to the right is coming. The Greens divided, the liberals too weak, the social democrats in tatters. This is the legacy of the eternal grand coalition. It's a candidate for the central cemetery.”

Kurier (AT) /

FPÖ already staking out its territory

Kurier reflects on how much influence the FPÖ would have on government policy as a coalition partner:

“Party leader Strache wants the interior ministry and regular referendums, even on leaving the EU, something which he says he personally doesn't want. No wonder the ÖVP leader Kurz has started talking more about Europe recently, a clear signal to Brussels and our business sector. On foreign policy the FPÖ is neutral, also vis-à-vis Russia, which is engaged militarily in Ukraine. This will trigger debates in the EU. The FPÖ promises tax relief, like all the others too. And on migration its position is the same as that of the ÖVP and not much different to that of the SPÖ. The question is whether and how Strache can get the far right elements within the party under control.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Transparency to combat dirty campaigning

Commenting on the debate about fake Facebook pages ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz has spoken out for a new law making "dirty campaigning" a punishable offence. Der Standard also calls for tough measures:

“In the past election campaign tribunals were set up just because sweets were distributed. Clearly this practice never decided the outcome of an election. But microtargeting or dark ads [ads on social networks targeting specific groups] can sway voter behaviour through dishonest means. This is not about shifting a few votes but about endangering democracy through manipulation. ... An Internet court made up of non-partisan experts could oversee the politicians' activities. ... Transparency guarantees cleaner campaigns - before any punishments are needed.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Copying FPÖ becoming a strategy for success

Commenting on the ÖVP's lead in the polls the Financial Times believes its leader Sebastian Kurz may have found the right strategy against the FPÖ:

“Sebastian Kurz, the ÖVP’s leader since May, has rebranded it as a rightwing party whose hard line on immigrants and Islam is, in some respects, barely distinguishable from that of the Freedom party. His call to shut down Muslim kindergartens on the grounds that they risk creating a 'parallel society' in Austria has prompted scornful Freedom party strategists to accuse him of political plagiarism. ... If Mr Kurz wins handsomely on October 15, other European centre-right parties will sit up and take note.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Election winner is already clear

The far-right FPÖ is already the big winner of the upcoming elections, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung counters:

“The lasting popularity of the FPÖ is a direct consequence of the grand coalition, the purported lack of alternatives and its behaving as if it had absolute power. ... For years the FPÖ has been pushing the other parties around. Under this pressure the government has steadily tightened the asylum laws in the legislative period that is now coming to an end, erected border barricades, approved a ban on full-body veils and called the EU's free movement of persons into question. All this is meeting with strong approval from the people. FPÖ positions that were once considered radical have long since become well accepted at the centre of society.”