ÖVP focuses on core group as critics attack Kurz

New People’s Party (ÖVP) General Secretary Hannes Rauch has said his party must stop trying to meet a majority’s demands.The Tyrolean told the Kurier newspaper today (Thurs): “We have to leave the idea behind us that we have to satisfy 60 or 70 per cent. The ÖVP is a party with many members. We have to make clear to these people that we are there for them.”Rauch was appointed as successor to Fritz Kaltenegger earlier this week. Kaltenegger acted as general secretary for around two and a half years. He was a close political aide to Josef Pröll who recently retired as ÖVP boss and finance minister due to health problems. Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger was asked by the party’s board to take over as chairman and vice chancellor. Spindelegger made clear he never aimed for the post. The foreign affairs minister will officially be elected as new head of the party at a conference in Innsbruck on 20 May.Spindelegger and Rauch asked media and political rivals to give Sebastian Kurz some time in his new role. The 24-year-old head of the ÖVP’s youth branch was named new integration issues state secretary while Johanna Mikl-Leitner took over from Maria Fekter as interior minister. Fekter is now finance minister in the government coalition of Social Democrats and the ÖVP.Newspapers and some non-government organisations (NGO) expressed doubts whether Kurz had enough experience to handle integration topics which are widely regarded as a key subject as the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) keeps getting stronger in polls.Spindelegger claimed Kurz “speaks the language of the young people”. He said in a radio interview about Austria’s first integration secretary yesterday: “Yes, he (Kurz) is young. But let’s give him a chance.”The ÖVP’s appointments of Rauch, Kurz and some new ministers are considered as a bid to catch up with the SPÖ who would come first in a general election were Austrians asked to head to the polls this Sunday. The party of Chancellor Werner Faymann recovered from a low in polls by focusing on the income gap issue. The Social Democrats have been calling for a tax on financial transactions and stricter rules for the global financial sector as many Austrians are understood to having become increasingly angered about developments concerning Austrian and international banks.The SPÖ would garner 27 per cent in a national election, according to Karmasin. The agency said the FPÖ – Austria’s strongest opposition party after claiming 17.5 per cent in the 2008 ballot – has chances to bag 26 per cent. Karmasin added that the ÖVP dropped from 33 per cent last April to 23 per cent. The ÖVP won a record 42.3 per cent of the vote in the general election of 2002. The Greens would win 15 per cent this Sunday, up sharply from their 10.4 per cent in the 2008 vote.The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) was seen at just two per cent one year ago. Around four per cent are needed to enter the federal parliament. The party, which was founded by late right-wing leader Jörg Haider in 2005, proved forecasters and analysts wrong by winning 10.7 per cent in the most recent federal election. It has the potential to bag six per cent at the moment, according to a new Karmasin study for weekly magazine profil.The public opinion firm also found that a majority of 73 per cent of Austrians would oppose FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache to become chancellor if his party came out on top in the next general election. It would be the first time for the FPÖ to win more votes than any other parties. The next federal ballot is due in 2013.