Pictured: Austria’s President Alexander van der Bellen (right) stands next to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (second from right), Greens Party leader Werner Kogler (second from left) and Minister of Justice Alma Zadic during the swearing-in ceremony of their coalition government on January 7, 2020 in Vienna. (Photo by Roland Schlager/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
After the end of a popular coalition government between the Austrian People’s Party and the Freedom Party — as well as snap elections on September 29, 2019, and extensive exploratory talks among all political parties — coalition negotiations between the allegedly center-right People’s Party and the far-left Greens Party reached their conclusion on January 2, 2020. Austrians had to exercise patience for more than 100 days until they would once again be governed by an elected administration. Since the previous government’s crash and the following parliamentary no-confidence vote against then-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, an unelected, appointed, technocratic caretaker government had been in charge.
The People’s Party under the leadership of Sebastian Kurz together with the Greens under the leadership of Werner Kogler garnered 53% of the vote in 2019, the hitherto smallest support for a coalition government. In 2017, when the People’s Party and the Freedom Party entered their government, they could count on the backing of 62%, a percentage that remained stable in polls until the Chancellor Kurz called for snap elections following the emergence in May 2019 of the Ibiza-video. which showed the Austrian vice-chancellor in a shady meeting with a woman claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch on the island of Ibiza.
In terms of support from parliament, the incoming government can count on a meager 97 out of 183 members, only five more than the required 50% plus-one majority. This will almost certainly turn into massive problems for the government given that the coalition pact contains plenty of explosive material — to be analyzed in due course — which could potentially lead to renegade MPs from either coalition partner whenever a law comes up for a vote.
While a coalition between the People’s Party and the Greens is a novel concept on a federal level in Austria, it has already been quite well established in provincial governments, such as currently in Vorarlberg, Tyrol and Salzburg. Elsewhere in Europe, the Greens are currently part of the government in Sweden, Finland, and Luxembourg.
Thanks to the Greta-Thunberg-True-Believers Movement and the massive support of the left-wing Austrian media, the Austrian Greens were given access to the public sphere despite the fact that they were not represented in parliament from 2017 onward. They now enjoy unprecedented attention not afforded to other small political parties. Moreover, the European Union has always viewed coalition governments with the participation of the Greens as “sexy and future-oriented”, with German chancellor Angela Merkel having had her eyes on a coalition with the Greens for a long time.
European media outlets are hailing the new and “future-oriented” Austrian government as a “model for Germany”, “the only chance to combat [right-wing] extremism”, and “a model that could be worth copying”. Criticism, even in its slightest form, has been virtually non-existent.
Whereas the Austrian Greens Party is eco-socialist, capitalizing on the current worldwide trends purportedly to save the planet from extinction due to “climate change”, the People’s Party champions an eco-social market economy, developed by former Austrian vice-chancellor Josef Riegler, which calls for the balance of a free market economy, social fairness and the protection of natural resources. How these seemingly conflicting views were reconciled in a coalition agreement will be discussed in the near future.
Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff is an Austrian human rights activist fighting for the right to freedom of speech as enshrined in the U.S. First Amendment. In 2009 she as charged for incitement to hatred and later found guilty for denigrating the religious teachings of a legally recognized religion. Her case was later accepted at the European Courts for Human Rights. She is the author of the book, “The Truth is No Defense.”
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