The election in Austria’s largest federal state was also the first test for the nationwide political mood this year. The conservative ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party), which is in charge of government in the Lower Austrian capital of St. Pölten and in the Chancellery in Vienna, is struggling with corruption investigations and current crises.
FPÖ in second place in Lower Austria for the first time
The right-wing FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) achieved record results in the state elections. According to the preliminary final result, she received 24.2 percent of the votes. The conservative governing party ÖVP suffered a severe loss. She lost her absolute majority and slipped by almost ten percentage points to 39.9 percent. Although it remained the strongest party in Lower Austria, it is the ÖVP’s worst result since 1945.
Social Democrats also lost their feathers
The FPÖ replaced the SPÖ (Austrian Social Democratic Party) as the second strongest force in the state parliament in St. Pölten. The Social Democrats lost a good three percentage points and ended up with 20.6 percent. Like the ÖVP, she too had to accept her worst election result in her history.
The Greens were able to win almost 7.6 percent of the voters. 6.7 percent voted for the liberal Neos. The two parties increased slightly compared to 2018. Voter turnout rose to around 71 percent after a good 66 percent in the previous election. According to surveys, the 1.3 million eligible voters made their decision based on national and global issues such as inflation, the environment and climate, as well as asylum and migration.
“The FPÖ managed to turn this state election into a federal election,” said the Lower Austrian ÖVP leader and state governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner. However, Mikl-Leitner ruled out resigning on election night. Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) attributes the outcome to the “mixed situation” of various crises such as asylum, pandemics and inflation. These are “bad times for those in government” and people are dissatisfied with the situation, Nehammer said in the state building in St. Pölten.
The FPÖ looks to the further elections with optimism
“We addressed the issues that move voters, that was the key to success,” said FPÖ state party leader Udo Landbauer on the record result. FPÖ national party manager Christian Hafenecker said in Vienna that “corruption has been voted out”. This is just the beginning, Hafenecker added, with a view to the state elections in Carinthia in March and in Salzburg in April. During its election campaign, the FPÖ criticized the federal government in Vienna for the increased number of asylum seekers and for the sanctions against Russia, which the FPÖ believes have triggered inflation.
In Austria-wide surveys, the opposition right-wing FPÖ has been in first place for weeks, ahead of the SPÖ and ahead of the ÖVP in third place. However, the next nationwide parliamentary elections in the Alpine Republic will not be scheduled until 2024.
qu/wa (dpa, afp, orf)