SPÖ and ÖVP go head to head in Styria

A hot political summer is ahead as research shows the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) are neck-and-neck in Styria.People in the central province head to the polls on 26 September and SPÖ Governor Franz Voves made clear he will step down as leader of the Styrian Social Democrats if ÖVP Deputy Governor Hermann Schützenhöfer wins.The SPÖ sensationally overtook the ÖVP by winning 41.7 per cent five years ago. The then ÖVP Governor Waltraud Klasnic announced a tearful retirement from politics after her party slumped to 38.7 per cent.Now IMAS said SPÖ and ÖVP would both garner 39 per cent if the election was held this Sunday. The Linz-based pollsters however stressed that 62 per cent of Styrians have not made up their mind yet.These revelations are expected to increase the tension on the campaign trail this summer.Analysts gave Voves little chances to retain number one a few months ago after it emerged his predecessors as party leaders set up a foundation to evade higher taxes in different financial investments – only weeks after the governor called on a higher taxation of foundations.Voves always stressed he had not been informed about the existence of the foundation and ensured its dissolution as a consequence of what rivals branded a political sham.The former ice hockey star has been regarded as one of the biggest critics of Werner Faymann, but recently publicly backed the SPÖ Chancellor over various issues.Voves is regarded as a spearhead of the party’s left-wing. He has called for higher taxes on inheritances and new taxes on assets and financial transactions.He also caused some controversy by refusing to rule out cooperating with the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) after the September vote to remain governor. Schützenhöfer meanwhile said he could imagine cooperating with the SPÖ, depending on the outcome of the election.Voves appealed to fellow SPÖ members to close the ranks – after banning party-internal rival Kurt Flecker from running in the upcoming election.FPÖ and its right-wing rivals the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) are expected to improve strongly in the 26 September election. The FPÖ reached just 4.6 per cent in 2005, while the BZÖ – founded by late FPÖ boss Jörg Haider in 2005 – garnered a meagre 1.7 per cent.The Styria vote takes place just weeks before Vienna SPÖ Mayor Michael Häupl tries to avoid losing absolute majority in the city parliament.Experts predict high gains of the FPÖ in the federal capital in the 10 October election. The right-wingers are expected to battle it out with the Greens and the ÖVP for second place.ÖVP Vienna boss Christine Marek hopes to win the support of the Croatian minority by nominating Dubrovnik-born swimmer Dinko Jukic.Rumours suggest Häupl will resign as mayor after 16 years regardless of the election result next year to give way to younger talent. SPÖ city councillors Michael Ludwig and Christian Oxonitsch are tipped as potential successors.