Häupl tops popularity poll as FPÖ swings to the far right

Only one in 10 Vienna residents would have supported Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache in a direct mayoral election, research has shown.Pollsters ISA/SORA found 10 per cent would have backed the right-winger in such a ballot, while 38 per cent said they would have supported incumbent Vienna Social Democrats (SPÖ) Mayor Michael Häupl. People’s Party (ÖVP) Vienna front runner Christine Marek would have the backing of only six per cent, while a meagre three per cent said they would have voted Greens Vienna boss Maria Vassilakou.This result is remarkable since the FPÖ garnered 27 per cent in Sunday’s city parliament election. The ruling SPÖ suffered bitter losses (2005: 49.1 per cent; 2010: 44.2 per cent), but also the opposition parties ÖVP (13.2 per cent) and Greens (12.2 per cent) did worse than in 2005 (ÖVP: 18.8 per cent; Greens: 14.6 per cent).Research ahead of the ballot gave Häupl a personal support of 48 per cent, while Strache would have garnered only seven per cent in a mayoral election.These facts could have tempted the SPÖ to run a “feel-good campaign” which focused on Häupl as a reliable and experienced leader, but also highlighted the city’s excellent performance in several international “quality of living” surveys.The FPÖ, however, succeeded by telling people they will not ignore their worries concerning the failed integration of some immigrants. The right-wing party pointed out that many immigrants would create “parallel societies”. It accused them of not willing to integrate into society – and claimed the SPÖ would do nothing against such developments.The ruling party – which is now forced to start coalition talks with the ÖVP and the Greens – reacted late by setting up “mentor teams” speaking to feuding tenants at council flats and other initiatives earlier this year and in 2009.The Social Democrats pointed out every resident of Vienna must stick to the city’s “house rules”. Häupl also stressed he would not – in contrast to the FPÖ – create fear and hatred among people and members of different ethnic communities.The FPÖ was however the big winner of the election. Analysts expect it to continue focusing on far-right policies throughout the next few years and the 2013 general elections.Its power in the Vienna city parliament will, however, not rise significantly despite having garnered an extra 15 seats to have an overall 28 members in the 100-member council since the SPÖ made clear it will not cooperate with the FPÖ.Strache called on Häupl to end his “arrogant isolation politics” towards the FPÖ. The mayor prefers teaming up with the ÖVP. He reportedly considers the conservative party a more reliable partner than the Greens. The SP֒s youth and student groups, however, made clear yesterday they want the party to join forces with the Greens.”We need a left-wing government in Vienna now. This is not possible with the conservative ÖVP,” a representative explained, while SPÖ Vienna board members remained tight-lipped about their preferences.Strache will continue to lead the FP֒s delegation in the federal parliament despite having headed the party’s campaign in Vienna.Johann Gudenus, who was behind Strache on the party’s list, is regarded as the party’s crown prince. The leading representative of the FP֒s far-right branch may take over as head of the FPÖ Vienna in the near future. Gudenus had NGOs and left-wing rivals seething when he claimed young Turks were “more violent and ready to carry out crimes” than other residents of Vienna.Gudenus is member of a far-right student fraternities as are several other leading FPÖ officials. The party recently managed to win wide acclaim by neo-Nazis who use a online discussion platform run with a server located in the United States to communicate.One debate participant wrote in a posting: “We weren’t too happy with the FP֒s policies recently since it said farewell to our nationalist approach. But I have seen changes recently. It seems our interventions paid off.”