Voters in the Republik Österreich will vote in Austria Election 2019 on Sunday, 29 September.
It took the calling of a snap election to get to this point, following the rare passage of a no-confidence motion in the prior government.
Following the election, the results will appear below; in the meantime, who are the key players and how did Austria see its government collapse?
The Road to Austria Election 2019
Austria previously voted in 2017, an election that resulted in the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) with the most seats. Fueled by a collapse in the Green vote, the center-right ÖVP passed the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) of Chancellor Christian Kern. The SPÖ and ÖVP were at the time in a “grand coalition,” but 2017’s vote gave a boost to Austria’s right. Both the ÖVP and the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) gained seats, and the two parties combined for a comfortable majority coalition government.
Sebastian Kurz, just 31 years old at the time, became Austria’s youngest chancellor in history. For a year and a half, he led the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition, but then, scandal hit.
The leader of the FPÖ at the time, Heinz-Christian Strache, got into some trouble via sting operation on the Spanish island Ibiza. In May 2019, video from 2017 was released in which Strache appeared to want media backing for the FPÖ campaign in exchange for helping a purported Russian agent get public contracts in Austria.1 When the news broke, Strache, by then the vice chancellor, had no alternative but to resign.
Shortly thereafter, the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition agreement was terminated. Within days, all FPÖ ministers had resigned, and the former coalition partner of the ÖVP sided with the opposition in a 27 May no-confidence vote. Kurz’s government lost the vote, making this the first Austrian government since World War II to fall in such a way.2
In the interim, Brigitte Bierlein (Independent) is Austria’s chancellor until a new one can be appointed following the election. She is the first female chancellor.
Austria’s Vote in the 2019 EU Elections
Right as the Ibiza scandal unfolded, on 26 May, Austria voted in the 2019 European Union elections. There was no enmity on the part of the voters toward Kurz’s party: the ÖVP picked up over seven percent vote share and gained two seats. The SPÖ held steady while the FPÖ dropped one seat and two and a half points in vote share.
Austria Election 2019 Opinion Polls
If the opinion polls are to be believed, the ÖVP is heading for a victory. In an election week survey released by Peter Hajek Public Opinion Strategies, the ÖVP led with 34 percent, followed by the SPÖ at 22 percent. The FPÖ were in a close third at 20 percent.3
For reference, the ÖVP received 31.5 percent in the 2017 elections, the SPÖ 27 percent, and the FPÖ 26 percent.
Party Leaders: Parties Currently in the National Council
- ÖVP (center-right): Sebastian Kurz, former chancellor
- SPÖ (social democratic): Pamela Rendi-Wagner
- FPÖ (right): Norbert Hofer
- NEOS (center): Beate Meini-Reisinger
- JETZT (left): Maria Stern
Austria Election 2019 Results
The ÖVP of Sebastian Kurz will remain the largest party in the National Council. They increased their vote share and therefore their seat total, rising to 71. This is 31 better than the next-closest party, the SPÖ.
Caught in the middle of the Ibiza scandal, the FPÖ took a significant hit. They lost 21 seats and almost 10 percent of vote share.
After their vote collapsed in the prior election, the Greens returned to the parliament with force. The Greens took 26 seats and will be the fourth-largest party.
The big winners in the Austrian election were the ÖVP and Greens who increased their vote share. Meanwhile, the FPÖ did poorly relative to their 2017 electoral performance while the SPÖ also failed to resonate, losing six percent. Centrist NEOS found its way to modest gains.
JETZT, formerly the Peter Pilz List, lost over half of its vote and fell out of the legislature.
Possible Government Coalitions
Should the ÖVP patch up its relationship with the FPÖ and form another right-wing government, it would command a comfortable majority of 21.
However, Sebastian Kurz has options. Another possibility, if the ÖVP chooses to distance itself from the FPÖ for the time being, is a national unity government between the traditional right and left rivals of the ÖVP and SPÖ. Though unlikely, it would control an even larger majority than what the FPÖ would bring.
Further, the ÖVP could go green, so to speak, and work with the Greens, and they, too, would hold a majority, but a narrower one just 11.
The only party that can form a government is the ÖVP, assuming none of the other parties would work with the FPÖ. A coalition of the SPÖ, Greens, and NEOS would only command 81 seats, 11 short of a majority. There are not enough center and left seats combined to form a new administration.
1: “Austria’s ‘Ibiza scandal’: what happened and why does it matter?” (by Philip Oltermann, The Guardian website, published 20 May 2019, accessed 22 September 2019)
2: “Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz ousted in no-confidence vote” (by Griff Witte, Washington Post website, published 27 May 2019, accessed 22 September 2019)
3: “SPERRFRIST 22.9. 22:00 Uhr: Heute Live „Die Runde Der SpitzenkandidatInnen“” (by Brandaktuell, in German, Brandaktuell website, published 22 September 2019, accessed 23 September 2019)
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