Keep family state secretary, says Spindelegger

Federal Workers Association (ÖAAB) head Michael Spindelegger has said the post of family issues state secretary must not be abolished.Spindelegger, who is also the People’s Party (ÖVP) foreign minister, said today (Tues) that family subjects must have “a face” in the government coalition between his party and the Social Democrats (SPÖ).The ÖAAB boss explained he hoped the state secretary would not be axed in the coalition’s current cost-cutting activities.His statement comes one day after fellow ÖVP member Christine Marek said she decided to resign as family state secretary to fully focus on the party’s Viennese department.Marek took over as ÖVP Vienna head half a year ago after Johannes Hahn was appointed European Commissioner for Regional Policy.Some ÖVP officials made Marek responsible for the party’s poor performance in last month’s Vienna city parliament election in which the ÖVP garnered 14 per cent, down from 18.8 per cent it claimed five years earlier.Marek controversially decided to carry out a hardline campaign in which she suggested more police on the streets and a ban on burquas. This came after years of building up a reputation as a popular member of the ÖVP’s liberal branch.Polls have shown that just one in 10 residents of the capital would support Marek were they being given the chance to elect the mayor in a direct vote.The outgoing state secretary claimed yesterday she had not been forced by any federal coalition members to leave the government. Marek said: “It’s purely my personal decision to step down as state secretary in favour of the ÖVP Vienna. I think it is important to focus on working for Vienna in the next five years.”Support for Marek within her own party waned after she claimed the fact she took over from Hahn just half a year ahead of the Vienna vote was the main reason the party suffered a bitter defeat. “I simply had to little time to position the party,” she argued.The ÖVP is expected to stay in opposition in the next five years in Vienna after the SPÖ surprisingly decided to meet the Greens for coalition talks. Marek said a possible cooperation between the Social Democrats and the Green Party would be a “threat” to the city. Marek made clear ahead of the 10 October ballot she was ready to take responsibility for the city in a coalition with the SPÖ.All but the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) – which garnered 25.8 per cent (2005: 14.8 per cent) – suffered losses in last month’s election.Meanwhile, federal ÖVP boss Josef Pröll said his party will decide who follows Marek as state secretary by the end of this week.The ÖVP’s Tyrolean department has reportedly the best chances to assign the new federal family issues state secretary.