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Wed Jun 1, 2016, 01:17 PM

Interesting article about political shift in Austria

The article is interesting both for the information it presents and the slant it takes.

The article is about the recent election for the Austrian President. As the article notes, this is a mostly ceremonial role, but the choices being made by the electorate point to a change in the direction they want their leadership to take.

Instead of voting for candidates from the centrist parties, the votes were split between candidates further to the right and left. This demonstrates some dissatisfaction with the centrist political stances that have held sway for a long time.

Van der Bellen,the leftist candidate, won in a very tight race.

However, most of the article is about the right wing candidate and the rise of right wing sentiment and party support there. There's very little about Van der Bellen's views and the policies he and his party will put forth. That scant amount is mostly used in contrast to the right wing views or, oddly, in support of continuance of centrist policies.

Really, would it kill Bloomberg to even acknowledge a few positive aspects of the Austrian people's embrace of a more leftward direction to state policies?


But one thing united Hofer and Van der Bellen despite their ideological differences. Both were protest candidates, mirroring the depth of Austrian dissatisfaction with the status quo. Contenders for the Social Democrats and the centrist People’s Party — the two parties that form the government coalition — were eliminated in last month’s first round of voting.

Those parties have dominated Austrian politics since the end of World War II and winners of all previous presidential elections since then have been backed by one of the two.

Hofer’s strong showing reflects the growth of support for anti-establishment parties across the continent to the detriment of the political middle. Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, a Social Democrat, described it as “a continuation of a trend.”

“People are dissatisfied with the traditional, standard political parties,” he said on arrival at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels. “I really believe it’s time for us to reflect upon it because we must be doing something wrong.”

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Response to suffragette (Original post)

Wed Jun 1, 2016, 01:23 PM

1. We are seeing the same rejection of the center in the United States and for good reason.

Center politics has moved more and more to the right in our country and become less and less able to move into the future.

This is not just a trend. This is something far worse.

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #1)

Wed Jun 1, 2016, 01:44 PM

2. Agree, but I would add the significance of many people wanting to push policy

More to the left.

I think that's why both the Democratic Party and the media were startled by the number of people supporting and voting for Bernie. People, even in the generally conservative Midwest, weren't afraid of voting for determinedly left wing policies of more socialized support of health, education and societal issues. They weren't cowed by the scary 'RED' label that has been used here for ages. That's a sea change worth of as much note as the more frequently reported rightward drift if the Republican Party.

(Please note, in bringing up Bernie, I am not trying to turn this into a GDP post or argument. I'm more interested in examine in this thread the tendency of the media to highlight right wing policies, politicians and voters' shifts and to downplay or flat ignore the left wing policies, politicians and voters' shifts.)

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Response to suffragette (Original post)

Wed Jun 1, 2016, 03:10 PM

3. I've actually said for years now.......

at least since the Great Recession, voting patterns everywhere are like a pendulum. Most of the time that pendulum swings right to left in the center, but when a big push comes like the Great Recession, the pendulum starts swinging more widely IF no one can get a handle on the situation. And that's what's happened.

The center parties, right and left, have not been able to restart the system in a manner that helps the average voter. So they start voting for parties outside of the putative center on BOTH sides of the spectrum in a desperate attempt to find SOMETHING that will work for them.

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Response to socialist_n_TN (Reply #3)

Wed Jun 1, 2016, 03:37 PM

4. Very astute analysis. Thank you!!!

It makes for interesting times, to be sure.

I think it's to find 'something' and also to reject some things that have been pushed for years now. Austerity measures - whether the austerity named measures in Europe or the unnamed but still austerity driven ones here - haven't worked. Instead they have driven a low level to seethng discontent as they keep chipping away at areas that make people feel one what secure, especially in terms of income and potentil retirement (both in actual and constantly threatened cuts to pensions, Social Security and diversion of people's retirement funding to private accounts that make more money for financiers than for the people trying to save).

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Response to suffragette (Reply #4)

Wed Jun 1, 2016, 07:14 PM

5. You're welcome and thank you for the kind words..........

You're right of course about the austerity measures that have been pushed and has kept any sort of recovery from happening, but there are a lot of voters all over the world that don't really know the REASON that things aren't getting better. Perhaps a majority don't. So these are the one who hear a far-right pol saying, "Immigrants are taking our jobs! Ban them!" and they think that sounds correct, so they vote right. When the right gets power and their life is STILL in the crapper, they vote for the ones like SYRIZA who say, "Elect us and we'll demand that capitalism treat us right". Then the SYRIZAs of the world can't do anything either so they swing even further to the right than before.

I'm a Marxist of the Trotskyist tendency, so I feel I KNOW what the problem is with the economy and why it's stagnated since the so-called recovery AND the reason why the capitalists are still calling for austerity. It's because the falling RATE of profit doesn't bring in ENOUGH profit for the bourgeoisie to feel like they can reinvest in the productive sectors that create jobs and wealth for the rest of us. Austerity and its partner in crime privatization, open up the revenue streams for the private sector to begin to RAISE that RoP to levels that they believe will allow for that reinvestment. The RW solutions don't work because they buy into the NEED for austerity and the left social democratic solutions don't work because they are STILL beholden to the capitalists and can't force the system to go against its imperatives RE: the rate of profit. In short, they both leave capital in the driver's seat and capital says that austerity and privatization is what is needed.

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Response to socialist_n_TN (Reply #5)

Thu Jun 2, 2016, 03:39 AM

6. All too often it seems profit is privatized and loss socialized

The stronger the pattern, the more frustrated most people get.

Interesting though, how socialism is the big bad to the rich until they need it to bail themselves out, then they can concoct all kinds of reasons why it's the thing to do.

I'm not as far to the left as you are, but have always appreciated your willingness to discuss issues and policies and their impact on people.

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Response to suffragette (Original post)

Thu Jun 2, 2016, 04:05 AM

7. If you look at the first round votes, you see Van der Bellen picked up a lot of anti-Hofer votes

Hofer led the first round by a worrying margin:
Hofer (far right) 35%
Van der Bollen (Greens) 21%
Griss (independent - a judge, who was willing to run for Hofer's "Freedom" party or the liberal NEOS, but neither wanted her) 18%
Hundstorfer (centre left) 11%
Khol (centre right) 11%


and if you look at the 2013 parliamentary results just above that, you see the 'Freedom' party is in 3rd place and rising, faster than the Greens. The surge of the far right really does look like the main story. And, in an echo of Trump's demographics in the USA, Hofer got his support from men and manual workers:

Support for Mr Hofer was exceptionally strong among manual workers - nearly 90%. The vote for Mr Van der Bellen was much stronger among people with a university degree or other higher education qualifications.

Support for Mr Hofer among men was 60%, while among women it was 60% for Mr Van der Bellen.


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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #7)

Thu Jun 2, 2016, 06:43 AM

8. "... in an echo of Trump's demographics in the USA ..." Neither Trump nor Hofer are isolated

examples. The far right is rising - most quickly in countries like Austria and the US, more slowly in really progressive countries like Sweden and Germany. The middle had better learn a lesson that the left already knows - the far-right has no answers but has plenty of scapegoats and hateful rhetoric to offer.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #7)

Fri Jun 3, 2016, 03:53 AM

9. Thanks for the additional info. It is frightening to see

The far right surging.

I would not minimize the danger of that and find it disturbing and disheartening.

I appreciate how the BBC article at least included more information about Van der Bellen. Whether people voted for him or against Hofer, it is good to see some of the experience and policy positions that helped him win.

I'm curious now about whether there were generational differences in how people voted.


Alexander Van der Bellen is the first environmental activist to become Austrian president. He is a chain-smoker and left-leaning liberal committed to the EU.
He studied economics at the University of Innsbruck and was later appointed professor at Vienna University. He retired from academia in 2009.
He was elected to parliament for the Greens in 1994, and from 1997-2008 was the party's spokesman.
In a TV debate, one of the few things he agreed on with Mr Hofer was that neither would accept TTIP - the free trade deal the EU is negotiating with the US.

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