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The Austrian Elections and its Parties, by Lara Geiger (Vienna, Austria)

On September 29th, Austrian citizens voted for a new coalition as part of the reelection process. The running parties were the ÖVP, SPÖ, NEOS, JETZT, DIE GRÜNEN, and Wandl. In Austria, all of the parties that earn a minority vote are proportionally represented in the Austrian general assembly; therefore everyone's views are represented. In order to form a coalition, a party must get over 50% of the vote, and there is usually a re-election to form a coalition every four years. Yet due to unique circumstances, the coalition between the ÖVP and FPÖ recently fell apart after only two years; a result of a seemingly innocuous trip to Ibiza. Heinz-Christian Strache, the former representative of the FPO in the Austrin Parliament, was caught making a deal with a Russian oligarch. Strache was forced to resign, causing a new election in the Austrian parliament.

Unlike America's adversarial, federal system, Austria is a parliamentary republic. Rather than splitting people into two parties which have set policies on all issues, Austria, like most European countries, has more than 1,000 registered political parties. The SPÖ, led my Pamela Rendi Wagner, is a moderately left party with socially and economically liberal views. The party’s primary social focuses are women's rights and ending discrimination towards the gay community. Furthermore, the Party believes in lifting up the most economically disadvantaged members of society and improving their quality of life. The party also believes that taxation should be decreased, and this year they vowed to impose taxes on CO2 emissions. They are also an ardent supporter of free trade with other nations.

The second most popular party in Austria, based on the results of past elections, is called ÖVP. It is led by Sebastian Kurz who was recently voted out as Chancellor as a result of his implication in the Ibiza scandal. Although the ÖVP is socially conservative and heavily influenced by religion, they lean slightly left on economic issues. The ÖVP was apart of a coalition with the FPÖ until the IBIZA video was anonymously published and released by the magazine Der Spiegel. As a result of the release, the party thought it reasonable to break up their coalition with the FPÖ. Because the video was released so close to the initial election, the reelection was rescheduled to the 29th of September.

Next in popularity is the FPÖ: it was originally led by Heinz Christian Strache, who resigned after the Ibiza Video was released, but now their chosen candidate is Norbert Hofer. The FPÖ is an extremely radical conservative party, leaning very far to the right on every issue. For example, they have publicy stated that homosexuality is a disease that should be banned, in addition to supporting a ban on headscarves in public schools. They flip flop on many issues, especially when it is convenient, making it difficult to follow their actual beliefs.

Die Grünen is a led by Werner Kogler. This party believes that fighting climate change is the most important issue that should be tackled before discussing anything else. Their position on every other issue is influenced by how it relates to the environment.

Lastly comes the NEOS which is led by Beate Meinl Reisinger. This party is a mixture of the ÖVP and Die Grünen. Children’s education is their most important cause; in fact, their party slogan is ,, Bildung über alles stellen,” which means education over all. The legislation they propose primarily concerns how to improve the Austrian education system, (ie increasing the number of teachers and increasing funding for education).

During the last election, the ÖVP won the majority vote, and the SPÖ polled just behind. Remarkably the FPÖ, a typically popular party with a hard stance on immigration, suffered heavy losses. Also, the greens (GRÜNEN) won many more seats in parliament due to worries about climate change. The NEOS followed just behind.

Overall the results were a surprise The voter turnout of approximently 75%, from voting ages 16 and above, showed that majority of Austrians care about the decisions that their government makes. Secondly, Austrian voters showed that they support cracking down on government corruption.

It is an interesting time to live and vote in Austria.

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