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Art, Writing, and Learning: The Clerisy Quarter => Discussion and Debate - The Philosopher's Plaza => Topic started by: Jubal on January 25, 2018, 11:28:01 AM

Title: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Jubal on January 25, 2018, 11:28:01 AM
I live in Austria now, so I have yet another country's political landscape to fret over.

So, as of last year's election, the Austrian government has changed from the old "red-black" coalition (main rightwing + main leftwing party, which is the norm for government in Austria) to a rightwing coalition now called "turquoise-blue" - turquoise being the new colour of the old "black" party, the conservative OVP, and blue being the colour of the far-right FPO, who are anti-immigration, anti-EU, etc, and have pretty much regular scandals about members being discovered to have past links to more openly fascist groups or about ministers calling for refugees to be locked up in camps or whatever (I'm not exaggerating either, it has basically been weekly so far this year).

There are some state (regional) elections coming up which should be fairly tightly fought, it's unclear who'll really benefit though the FPO and NEOS (rightwing liberals, the "pinks") are likely to make some gains at the expense of the bigger older parties. The SPO (social democrats, the "reds") seem to be holding fairly steady in polls and taking an increasingly anti-immigration line to try and grab FPO supporters, quite a lot of whom aren't that economically right-wing and may be turned off from the turquoise-blue government which looks like it'll implement a bunch of cuts to social security and things like that. The only vaguely important parties I haven't mentioned yet are the Greens (green), who are in disarray (last year's election knocked them out of the main parliament), and are trying to cling on to some local representation, and the Pilzers (white), an offshoot of the Greens who got into parliament but who are basically just a mini-cult around their leader, Peter Pilz, who's also had a whole bunch of sexual harassment allegations against him surface recently, so that's fun.

I've written a couple of blogposts, this one on the history if anyone wants a primer on the situation:
https://thoughtsofprogress.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/austria-progress-and-regress-how-did-we-get-here/

And this one on how the current coalition might pan out and the possible scenarios for the future:
https://thoughtsofprogress.wordpress.com/2018/01/06/austria-8-scenarios-for-the-future/

Obviously bear in mind my usual bias to a left-liberal position, not that left-liberalism is much of a thing in Austria...
Title: Re: Austrian Politics 2018
Post by: dubsartur on September 26, 2019, 06:00:40 PM
Jubal, do you understand why the Austrians seem to have some kind of election every six months or so?

We have a new one coming up thanks to the Ibiza scandal: for people living in other countries, the head of the libertarians (Freiheitliche Partei Österreich) was caught on tape offering to give lucrative public contracts to a woman who he thought was the niece of a Russian oligarch interested in purchasing a Vienna tabloid and turning it further right, causing a breakup of the current coalition government.
Title: Re: Austrian Politics 2018
Post by: Jubal on September 27, 2019, 11:25:15 AM
Well, different levels of election are staggered & happen on different cycles (which is true in most European countries), which ups the density. I think this is the first really early general election Austria has had in a while, certainly the previous couple of red-black governments before 2017 all managed to serve pretty much full terms. The FPO are a particularly unstable and incompetent mess so I guess it shouldn't be super surprising.

I'd disagree with the characterisation of the FPO as libertarian - they're really much more the sort of party that gets the "Freedom" bit out the way in the title to avoid having to deal with it in their actual manifesto, and I'm not sure they have many key policies I'd recognise as being from a right-libertarian tradition (I'd think of NEOS as closer to libertarianism, though Austria doesn't really have a true libertarian party IMO). Primarily these days I'd think of them as an anti-immigration and anti-Islam party. They're much more a national-conservative party like UKIP or Poland's Law & Justice, though with the key difference to most of the European far right that they have a much longer term buy-in to the system, with them having been in government more than once. This creates a paradox where they're much less inclined to pull the whole thing down on everyone, but conversely get more chances to enact horrible policies.

I'll be interested to see what happens after this - it looks like the OVP will gain a bit from the last election, the FPO and SPO both dropping a few points, and a big surge for the Greens (plus a modest increase for NEOS). So basically possible coalitions: OVP + FPO round 2 (embarrassing after the OVP just broke that off due to the FPO's scandal), OVP + SPO (but they really hate each other since Kurz), or OVP + NEOS + GRN (but the Greens would be very very nervous of that - they've just recovered from 3% to 13% in the polls an may not want to burn that on a coalition with Kurz).
Title: Re: Austrian Politics 2018
Post by: dubsartur on September 28, 2019, 12:58:31 PM
I picked "libertarian" as a translation of freiheitlich because of the "darkness of freedom/the loudest barks for liberty come from the drivers of the Negros" observations which have become widely recognized over the past 50 years, but not as widely as I once thought they were.  Its sort of like whether you translate volkisch as "racist/racialist," there is no good solution but some choices can start people thinking in a more useful direction than others.  I would agree that the FPÖ are roughly the local Xenophobe Party franchise.
Title: Re: Austrian Politics 2018
Post by: dubsartur on September 30, 2019, 11:36:11 PM
For the record, the results were 38% ÖVP, 21% SPÖ, 16% FPÖ (and Heinz-Christian Strache of the Ibiza tape is out), 8% NEOS, 14% Green, the rest various small parties and lists.  As you said, there are a few possible coalitions, and they all will be lead by a party which was willing to work with the FPÖ as long as they were useful.
Title: Re: Austrian Politics 2018
Post by: Jubal on October 01, 2019, 11:25:55 AM
Indeed. I think the worry is that both the SPO and Grunen will be too scared of electoral punishment from the other to agree a deal with Kurz, which will push Kurz back to the FPO. I mean, I empathise with the left on that front, but I really don't want the FPO back in office again :/
Title: Re: Austrian Politics 2018
Post by: Jubal on October 07, 2019, 06:02:03 PM
As a further update, I did an actual blog post on this:

https://thoughtsofprogress.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/austrian-scenarios-election-2019/
Title: Re: Austrian Politics
Post by: Jubal on January 26, 2020, 05:16:14 PM
Changed the thread title as I don't think we need a new thread every year for Austria.

So, Austria now has a Conservative-Green government, and we'll see what that ends up looking like. In the national polls, the Greens and Conservatives are both continuing to do well, with the Greens polling in second in the averages above the SPO in the mid-teens, and the FPO sitting in an embarrassing (for the traditional third party) fourth place. NEOS are doing creditably too, hitting double figures, and the OVP Conservatives are still soaring ahead in the polls. It's the SPO and FPO who are doing badly compared to their historical positioning, especially the SPO who were once the major party of government right across Austria.

There is one bit of bright news for the SPO - Austria's easternmost, least populous state, Burgenland, voted in its regional election today (https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000113678036/alle-ergebnisse-der-landtagswahlen-im-burgenland), and the SPO beat expectations, increasing their vote by about nine points from the previous election to achieve an overall majority of a couple of seats, a rare feat in Austria's proportional elections. Despite the Burgenland SPO having been in coalition with the far right, they did not lose votes to the Greens, who stayed fairly static, with a tiny increase for the Conservatives and a big drop for both the local Burgenland List and the far right FPO. NEOS generally failed to make headway. It's interesting how much this bucks the national trends - my impression as an activist is that it's now extremely tough to counteract national polling trends in e.g. the UK, not least because the local press is so weak and under-read, so it's interesting seeing the social democrats achieve it here.

In more concerning news for them, Lower Austria is having municipal elections and the SPO are apparently struggling to find candidates (https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000113720930/allein-auf-roter-flur-wenn-nur-mehr-eine-kandidatin-ueberbleibt) in many areas. This is something I've noticed in the UK as well even more so - local government is seen as such an irrelevance in most areas that very few voters understand what it does and very few people are willing to stand for election to it. A friend of mine who's the only liberal councillor (and parliamentary spokesperson/candidate) in my home constiuency was saying to me recently that people in her ward (which she won from the Conservatives last year) simply don't know that they can come to her for help with council issues, or indeed what issues are council-level ones to start with. I don't know what one does about all that, and I guess that the looser nature of geographic community ties must weaken the extent to which people are willing to invest/engage with their municipal elected offices, but it does trouble me as a political problem.
Title: Re: Austrian Politics
Post by: dubsartur on January 28, 2020, 10:53:45 PM
There is also a controversy about a FPÖ-friendly historian in Vienna.

Disengagement from local politics is a big problem for political theorists, "rational voter" theory would say turnout should be highest for local elections and lowest for national.  But the media model politics as a soap opera and a set of tribal shibboleths to learn and repeat and a way to show off sounding smart, rather than educating people on how to organize and set out to change the world.
Title: Re: Austrian Politics
Post by: Jubal on January 28, 2020, 11:10:16 PM
Quote
There is also a controversy about a FPÖ-friendly historian in Vienna.

Yes, Lothar Höbelt. Utter arsehole. I've made my views clear publicly, but there's not a lot more I can do unfortunately despite being a member of his department, being both junior and an exclusive anglophone there's not a lot of traction for anything I can say on the matter. The departmental leadership have at least finally publicly spoken out strongly against him in the past week or so, after a long time trying to hope or pretend that the problem would go away - but as I understand it the rules make it nigh impossible to actually shift him, and he's close to retirement (2021) so a lot of the more cautious voices in the heirarchy would rather wait him out.

Quote
Disengagement from local politics is a big problem for political theorists, "rational voter" theory would say turnout should be highest for local elections and lowest for national.
I don't think this holds true in very centralised democracies like the UK, where often even local road signage and planning issues can get kicked up to the level of having central government departments involved. The maximum direct impact over people's lives, in a lot of European democracies, is in national elections as well as those hogging the media light. Local and municipal government in the UK has been bled dry to the point where a lot of its functions don't involve serious "political" choices and instead are a constrained matter of service commissioning at a local level, which is the point at which I think it's fully rational for voters to focus on the central government as the only one that can particularly influence anything. Austria is less centralised than the UK, of course, but really local municipal government (which is where the candidate lack is), is I suspect still constrained really heavily. Local government, when constricted in its function, stops being a plausible way to do community organising, and that's when it dies off.
Title: Re: Austrian Politics
Post by: Jubal on October 15, 2020, 11:09:55 AM
We've had the Viennese municipal elections. The main story really across the board is the utter collapse of the FPO - with the "HC" list that split off from them failing to get into the chamer, and the main FPO list falling to fifth place from second, well under ten percent, in the city council election (they came fourth overall in the district elections). The conservatives (OVP) were the main beneficiaries, but just about everyone else made some gains. Hopefully it'll be harder for them to get media coverage and funding in the future as a result.

It looks like the Greens won the plurality in my district's election, so maybe we'll have a new mayor now, not quite sure how that works.
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Jubal on November 03, 2020, 05:25:49 PM
So you'll probably have all seen, but there was an IS linked terror attack here in Vienna last night. Four or five dead, fifteen or twenty injured - some details still don't seem to be clear, at the time there was talk of three or four attackers and up to six locations, but that seems to be being revised down and it's unclear how independently the main one or two attackers were operating. It's been a very surreal experience, I had to try and get to bed with police helicopters somewhere overhead late last night. Everyone I know is safe, though one or two friends had to shelter in the basements of bars they were in or working in.

Feeling really quite shaken today - not that I was there meaningfully, but these are all places within about 40 mins' walk.
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: dubsartur on November 04, 2020, 01:42:08 AM
I am sorry you are feeling jumpy!

Someone shot four individuals, three fatally, in a gravel pit near the retirement community of Qualicum, Vancouver Island on the night of Saturday 31 October and Sunday 1 November (CBC (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/3-dead-vancouver-island-1.5786357)).  Two of the dead were in a burned-out motor home.  The police spokesman is carefully avoiding the word "biker gang" and just saying "Initial findings lead investigators to believe that this is an isolated incident between parties well known to one another."  I think a lot of people who want to commit spectacular violence are emptying out the piggybank before the US election fills up the rich-world media for a few months!
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Jubal on November 11, 2020, 08:39:21 PM
Austria appears to be implementing new "anti-terror" laws which will probably go about as well as anywhere and lead to Muslim communities feeling more disenfranchised and disaffected :(
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Jubal on November 19, 2021, 05:58:31 PM
Austria has had a lot of news this year, I kind of skipped over the whole "Kurz resigning under a cloud of scandal" bit here but we have a new chancellor, Schallenburg, a former diplomat and very Kurz-like politically.

But now we've made big news by becoming the first western country to actually nationally mandate vaccination, as well as going into lockdown again as of Monday. Anti-vaxx sentiment is bad in parts of Upper Austria and Salzburg especially - suffice to say there are parts of the country where horse enthusiasts are finding it hard to buy enough Ivermectin lately - and that's been enough gap for us to have a huge winter wave this year. There'll no doubt be a lot of upset about the vaccine thing on the far right.
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Pentagathus on November 20, 2021, 08:42:44 AM
What is the penalty for refusing the vaccination?
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Jubal on November 20, 2021, 10:02:25 AM
Not sure, I've not really paid attention to that bit because it won't affect me. But I'll report back when I see more details.
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Pentagathus on November 21, 2021, 11:05:19 AM
I've been fully vaxed myself but the thought of compulsory vaccinations do not sit well with me at all. I hope the booster vaccines don't become mandatory for healthcare workers here, I feel it's too much to give third doses to residents of wealthy nations who are already vaccinated when there are still billions of people in poorer countries who haven't had a single dose. But I won't really have much choice if I'm going to need a booster in order to attend placements.

Is there a lot of right wing support in Austria atm? IIRC the last presidential election very nearly led to a fairly far right president, I don't imagine lockdowns and vaccination mandates are going to help the left in the next election.
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Jubal on November 21, 2021, 12:11:04 PM
I agree, I don't like compulsory vaccinations and I think the European/Western hogging of doses overall is appalling. It's tricky to know how one does solve the anti-vaxx problem, that said: if we don't get very high vaccination rates then it continues imposing the cost (financial but also social and psychological) of repeated lockdowns, deaths, etc on everyone. Maybe a halfway house like some additional tax for non-exempt unvaccinated people to incentivise them and help cover the costs of that choice? I really don't know. I'd like not to have to put any pressure on anyone with these sorts of things but I'd also like to not have all this happening on repeat.

The far right are on about 20 percent or a bit above - they fell back quite a bit after the Ibiza Scandal and never fully recovered, they've gone very very full anti-vaxx. The left are actually not doing too badly: the people really hurting lately have been the centre-right who were very dominant until the recent scandals around Kurz (the current government is Conservative-Green). They're still leading in polls but they've dropped from a very dominant mid to high thirties to being only in the mid twenties in percentage terms, with most of the other parties gaining a little as a result. The Greens are holding about where they were at the last election, the Social Democrats are a couple of points higher, and the NEOS (right-liberals) are doing about four points better: on current numbers one could almost scrape together a Red-Green-Pink coalition and shut out the Conservatives and Far Right altogether, which hasn't been the case for a long while.
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Pentagathus on November 21, 2021, 05:25:46 PM
The far right are on about 20 percent or a bit above - they fell back quite a bit after the Ibiza Scandal and never fully recovered, they've gone very very full anti-vaxx. The left are actually not doing too badly: the people really hurting lately have been the centre-right who were very dominant until the recent scandals around Kurz (the current government is Conservative-Green). They're still leading in polls but they've dropped from a very dominant mid to high thirties to being only in the mid twenties in percentage terms, with most of the other parties gaining a little as a result. The Greens are holding about where they were at the last election, the Social Democrats are a couple of points higher, and the NEOS (right-liberals) are doing about four points better: on current numbers one could almost scrape together a Red-Green-Pink coalition and shut out the Conservatives and Far Right altogether, which hasn't been the case for a long while.
Ah, well that's good news at least (for me anyway). I'm guessing the anti-vax sentiment is low enough that it's not really going to gain support for far right movements, particularly since a lot of anti-vaxers are actually part of ethnic minorities (from what I've seen there seems to be a lot of conspiracy theories about the vaccines being linked to eugenics, which tbf seems more likely than mind-control microchips.)

As to the actual effect of vaccines, it doesn't seem to reduce transmission (with new variants becoming prevalent that is) but it does biggly reduce severity of infection and mortality rate. So widespread vaccination won't necessarily reduce the need for lockdowns, although it should ease pressure on hospitals. I suppose it's theoretically possible to pass a law stating that healthy people who choose not to get vaccinated for covid can't receive treatment from public health-services if they test positive for covid but I'm not sure how feasible that would be in practice or how well it would sit with anyone.
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: dubsartur on November 21, 2021, 10:13:08 PM
I agree, I don't like compulsory vaccinations and I think the European/Western hogging of doses overall is appalling. It's tricky to know how one does solve the anti-vaxx problem, that said: if we don't get very high vaccination rates then it continues imposing the cost (financial but also social and psychological) of repeated lockdowns, deaths, etc on everyone.
The other issue is that Austria eliminated the virus outside of Vienna in summer 2020.  We came so close!  But with the more infectious variants we seem stuck in this cycle of half measures other than vaccination.  And with the more infectious variants the vaccination rate would have to be very high to stop the disease from circulating.

How have public health advice in Austria been?  In BC the public health authorities have been very slow to withdraw advice to do burdensome things which don't seem to help (like cleaning your hands before you enter shops, or quarantining books returned to libraries, or wearing transparent face shields).
Title: Re: Austrian News & Politics
Post by: Jubal on November 21, 2021, 10:25:56 PM
The biggest problem with Austrian public health advice is that it's mostly correct but far too complicated. Part of that is that it's administered at state level whilst people get their news nationally, so it's very hard to actually tune the messages to how things work for people locally. But also there tend to be far too many variable standards rather than trying to get people to enforce one - so for example there's the "3G" system for entry to stuff - tested, vaccinated, or recovered, all of which start with a g in German. But then that's also spawned 2G, and it's often not obvious to people which of the 3Gs is left out in 2G, or when that's occurring. And then we've now also got 2.5G and 2G+ for different variants of what sort of tests are allowed and when, at which point nobody can remember what the hell is going on.

The stuff that's simple - like e.g. FFP2 masks on public transport and in shops - works well. The rest not so much, especially outside cities where rural towns and shops just don't enforce things.

I don't think the near-elimination in 2020 really registers with people here now any more or affects things much. There's a general acceptance, I think, that we were always going to have some issues once borders were open, we've just got too many neighbouring countries to wipe it out and do a New Zealand.