The Austrian Green Party has received its highest ever share of the vote in a general election after winning 14 per cent of all votes cast in yesterday’s (29 September) snap election, raising the prospect of the party entering into a coalition with the victorious centre-right Austrian People's Party (ÖVP).
The Greens 10.2 per cent rise from the last election in 2017 has seen the party go from having zero seats in the National Council to 23, after previously missing the four per cent minimum threshold to qualify for seats in 2017.
The Greens’ share of 14 per cent put the party it in fourth place behind the ÖVP on 37.1 per cent, Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) on 21.7 per cent, and the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) on 16.1 per cent.
The surge in support that has brought the Austrain Green Party back into parliament has generated speculation that former Chancellor and ÖVP leader, Sebastian Kurz, could invite it to form a coalition government, possibly in a three-way alliance with the pro-business, New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) who followed the Greens in fifth place.
Sunday’s snap election was held in the wake of the ‘Ibiza Affair', which led to the collapse of the ruling conservative ÖVP–FPÖ coalition (led by Kurz), and the resignation of Vice Chancellor and leader of the FPÖ Heinz-Christian Strache in May 2019.
In May, Strache was covertly filmed at a luxury resort in Ibiza, Spain, offering government contracts to a woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch, in return for help in his election campaign.
The scandal led to a vote of no confidence that removed Kurz from office, with constitutional lawyer Brigitte Bierlein heading a caretaker government in the interim period from June until yesterday’s snap elections.
The ÖVP fell short of the 92 seats required win a majority, winning 72, meaning Kurz will need to form a coalition. An alliance with the Social Democrats, who won 41 seats, has been the tradition since the Second World War but such an agreement is thought to be unattractive to both parties. Kurz has indicated he will enter discussions over the next few weeks with all parties, potentially renewing a pact with the FPÖ, or creating a new coalition with the Greens.
Results show that support for the FPÖ has fallen by a third following the Ibiza scandal, in contrast to the increase in votes for the Greens, perhaps reflecting the surge in support for Green Parties across Europe, due to increasing concern over climate change.
The Green success has brought the party lots of cause to celebrate and the potential for a coalition with the ÖVP could see environmental issues brought to the forefront of Austrian politics. However, support for a union is divided within the Green Party, with some members unsure of the conservative social policies and wary of Kurz’s previous alliance with the far-right.
Speaking to Ruptly at the party’s headquarters, Green candidate Sibylle Hamann, said: "Our positions are clear, we are standing for a radical change in the Austrian climate politics. We want social fairness and radical transparency and control. Whoever wants to do this with us and wants to achieve it with us is more than welcome. If it will be Sebastian Kurz, it's up to him."