Austria (Vienna Provincial elections – 10/10)
As with most countries that operate some form of PR there is greater breadth of political ideas than in countries with FPTP if only because they have a greater chance of obtaining representation and thus legitimacy and patronage. Austria is no different. Apart from the Socialists (SPO) and Conservatives (OVP) there are strong Green and Nationalist groups plus the usual (social) Liberal and unusual Communist parties! There is also the BZO (Alliance for Future of Austria).
The BZO was formed in 2005 by ex-FPO (Nationalist) members under the populist but controversial Joerg Haider who had fallen out with other members of the leadership after they began to lose votes as (a junior) part of a governing Coalition (with the Conservative OVP) in the early 00′s. They combined a mix of populism, nationalism and liberalism. The FPO (Freedom Party) had always contained a strand of (National) Liberalism within their ranks. Many of these left to join the BZO www.bzoe.at/
They initially tried to distinguish themselves from the rest by developing an ideology that some suggest NL. For example:
“The BZÖ wants a policy that is based on timeless values such as freedom, home, responsibility and community spirit. Such as employment, performance, education, social justice and welfare can be guaranteed is the challenge of the 21st Century. Citizens need to feel again understood by politicians and represented. The BZÖ is committed as much freedom as possible in a caring and ordering state and for the strengthening of individual responsibility. In the foreground the freedom of the individual stand on the foundation of a sound and just community service with a social face, and securing meaningful missed basic needs such as employment, property, social security and posterity.” Styrian BZO 2005.
Yet the reality of power politics meant they had to gain votes from a traditional electorate for whom NL meant little. They also attracted nationalists and populists who followed the personality of Haider. Some of these contradictions are discussed in an earlier article http://nationalliberal.org/?p=46.
Following Haider’s death and the reality that their strength had primarily rested upon his personality they have struggled to make headway. Although they have registered some gains in Styria (+1.26) & Vienna (+0.2) and defeated the social liberal LIF this was from a very low level. In reaction the party seems to have developed two wings; a populist one (and some say FPO-light) under Gerald Groz (Stryian leader) and a right-wing liberal one under Josef Blucher (Federal Leader). To some extent it revolves around focus i.e. one wants to tap into the popular mood e.g. anti-Islamic/immigration and the other stresses economic policy. Whether both can or should be accommodated and whether they can maintain an electoral presence remains to be seen but since they are in the birthlands of continental National Liberalism we can only hope they will continue to ‘morph’ into National Liberals.
Date: October 14, 2010