Vienna gets first SPÖ-Greens coalition

Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache has vowed “resistance” as the Viennese Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Greens have agreed to cooperate in the city parliament.The right-winger said today (Fri): “We will fight this horrific experiment, of course.”Strache, whose party garnered almost 26 per cent in last month’s city ballot, also announced plans to hold an “action day” in order to inform residents of the capital about his party’s policies and why it opposed the new coalition.The FPÖ chief claimed the SPÖ planned to “punish” the city’s citizens after having lost its absolute majority in seats in the city parliament.Some analysts warned already ahead of the 10 October ballot that a cooperation between the SPÖ and the Greens will help the FPÖ to increase its popularity.The rightist party has accused the Social Democrats of having ignored the worries of Austrian residents of Vienna. It also spoke out against more immigration from Islamic countries and labelled mosques as “hotbeds of radical Islam”.The FPÖ also claimed the SPÖ has turned a blind eye on problems in the integration process of foreigners in the city – while failing to present convincing ways to adress this and other issues.It will be the first time for the SPÖ and the Greens have formed a coalition in Austria. The Green Party has never been member of a federal government and its cooperation with the People’s Party (ÖVP) in Upper Austria is the only coalition on a provincial level.Austria has been governed by the SPÖ, the ÖVP or coalitions of the parties ever since the end of World War Two. The Viennese Social Democrats have always had an absolute majority in the federal capital’s parliament expect for a five-year period from 1996 when it teamed up with the ÖVP following election losses.The party, which is headed by Mayor Michael Häupl, garnered 44.3 per cent in last month’s city parliament election, down by 4.8 per cent compared to its performance in 2005. The SPÖ was expected to approach the ÖVP for coalition talks before sensationally announcing it will meet the Greens to discuss the possibility of working together.Both the ÖVP and the Greens suffered losses in the vote – and both made clear ahead of it that they were ready to take on responsibility in a coalition with the SPÖ. Political analysts have claimed the FPÖ benefited by these candid statements. They said many Viennese people may have considered the announcements as nothing more than offers to the SPÖ to help continue executing its power. The right wing party warned that “more of the same” lay ahead from the coalition excluding the FPÖ.Häupl is still the most popular politician in Vienna, but is nevertheless understood to resign as leader in two to three years’ time to prove that the party is willing to evolve – and to increase the SP֒s chances of regaining its absolute majority.City councillors Michael Ludwig and Christian Oxonitsch are tipped to succeed Häupl after financial affairs councillor Renate Brauner’s reputation was harmed by alleged excessive spending on several controversial infrastructure projects.Some reports have it that the Viennese SPÖ department has hopes that Federal SPÖ Labour Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer would take over, but it seems unlikely SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann will let the most popular member of his cabinet leave.Häupl announced today Greens Vienna boss Maria Vassilakou, who was born in Athens, will become vice mayor. The SPÖ Vienna chief, who has been mayor since 1994, explained details of what his party and its new coalition partner were planning would be presented next week.Vienna ÖVP leader Christine Marek said after the SPÖ and the Green Party started their negotiations that she regarded a coalition between these two parties as a “threat” to the city.Federal ÖVP Interior Minister Maria Fekter labelled the newly announced coalition as an “experiment” and a chance for her party’s Viennese department to sharpen its profile.Federal Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) boss Josef Bucher said he felt sorry for Vienna. The former FPÖ official announced he expected rightist movements to increase their popularity further since “more multiculturalism” must be expected from the new coalition partnership. The BZÖ failed to enter the Vienna city parliament in last month’s elections as it claimed juts 1.3 percentage points.Eva Glawischnig, the federal head of the Green Party, said: “I consider the new coalition in Vienna as the chance for changes for the better.”Glawischnig added she saw chances the partnership could also have influences on the federal political spectrum.