Once again the right sweeps victory in Europe in the Austrian snap election held today with the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) becoming the biggest and the nationalist Freedom Party (FPÖ) getting second place. This marks the first time in Austrian politics that both right-wing parties have seen a gain in seats without taking them from each other.
The snap election was called after the grand coalition between the ÖVP and Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) broke following the resignation of ÖVP leader Reinhold Mitterlehner.
The ÖVP this election was led by the 31 year old Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz who was unanimously chosen as new leader and focused his campaign on a tough populist stance against immigration and Islam, showing a rightward populist shift of the party under his leadership. During his campaign Kurz boasted about closing the Balkan route for refugees by shutting down Austrian borders.
The FPÖ who promotes a combination of nationalist and libertarian policies and is allied with many other right-wing populist parties in Europe has become the second biggest party with their strongest results in decades. Obviously gaining strong momentum on an anti-immigration stance but distinguishing itself from ÖVP with a hard euroskeptic stance.
The centre-left SPÖ failed to gain any seats and has been relegated from the biggest party to the third biggest party, continuing the trend of social democratic parties in Europe seeing big losses. The left-liberal Pro-EU NEOS also failed to gain any seats. And the classical liberal Team Stronach declined to run this election.
But the biggest losers this election were The Greens, who lost all their seats and are no longer represented in the National Council. This is a surprising shift from last year when The Greens won the presidential election with Alexander Van der Bellen. The party suffered losses after their leader Peter Piltz left to make his own party, who did make it into the council.
These results continue to show the trend of right-wing populism on the rise in Europe. Other notable elections this year included the German general elections where Alternative for Germany became third biggest party, The Dutch general election where Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom became the second biggest party and the French presidential election where Marie Le Pen of Front National managed to get into the final rounds against Macron.
Since no party managed to get the 92 seats needed for a majority the ÖVP will have to enter in a coalition, which will likely be with the FPÖ which would make 114 seats.