Green In Unlikely Places

A brief word on Austrian politics – it’s getting slightly weird there:

Österreichs Öko-Partei: Grüne Welle (von Stephan Löwenstein, Wien)


FAZ Politik

Grüne Welle: there is a new “Green Wave” in Austria, for the Green Party is doing quite well, as Stephan Löwenstein of Germany’s paper-of-record, the FAZ, lets us know. So far in 2013 there have been elections in four states – like Germany, Austria is divided into nine federal states – and the Austrian Greens made advances in each of them, spectacularly so in the state of Salzburg, where a Green party politician might even become state governor.

Maybe this isn’t so strange, you might say: the Greens have been very successful in Germany as well, just not lately. Famously, they formed a government at the national level with the Socialist SPD party of Gerhard Schröder from 1998 to 2005 (winning re-election nationally in 2002), with party head Joschka Fischer serving as Deputy Chancellor and Foreign Minister. But Green Party success in Austria really is notable, since the political scene there is very different: basically, ever since emerging again as an independent state in 1955, Austria has been totally dominated by two parties, the socialist Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the right-wing People’s Party (ÖVP).

Yes, around 1999 you saw the rise of the right-wing xenophobic Freedom Party (FPÖ) led by Jörg Haider, but intrusions into this cosy two-party arrangement of Austrian politics – for decades the basis of insider patronage for government and business positions up and down the societal spectrum – have ordinarily been very rare. Granted, the rise of the Greens is frequently manifesting itself in that party entering three-way coalitions with the established SPÖ and ÖVP parties: this is in place already in Corinthia, might happen in Salzburg, and could even happen at federal level.

Now, why does this matter? Who is interested in Austrian politics, anyway? – maybe even not many Austrians themselves! Well, it’s interesting to see the stranglehold two traditional parties have had on Austria broken up this way. This is also a step forward – if small – for those trying to do something about the worldwide threat of global warming (hey, we’re now over 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – not that there is any direct evidence that that subject is at all responsible for the Greens’ recent electoral successes).

As for more immediate concerns, Austria is firmly in the camp of northern EU “creditor” countries, in fairly good fiscal and economic shape themselves, whose attitude and generosity towards those Eurozone members struggling in the South and on the periphery (i.e. Ireland) will be decisive towards determining how – if at all – the EU can eventually emerge from its current sovereign debt crisis.

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