Eight in 10 rule out ÖVP win

A vast majority think that the People’s Party (ÖVP) has no chance to come first in the next elections.Research group Karmasin questioned 500 Austrians for political magazine profil. The agency said today (Mon) that 48 per cent of interviewed citizens think the conservative party “will rather not” come out on top in the next federal ballot scheduled for 2013. Thirty-two per cent told the public opinion investigation firm that the ÖVP “will definitely not” be ahead of the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and Austria’s other political parties.Only three per cent are convinced that the ÖVP – which most recently won a general election in 2002 when it claimed 42.3 per cent – “will certainly” bag more votes than any other party, while 12 per cent think the party “might” celebrate a victory.These findings are little uplifting news for Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger who took over as party head and vice chancellor from Josef Pröll last month. Pröll left politics due to health problems. The former environment minister acted as party leader for just two and a half years.Spindelegger explained he wanted to attract “the hardworking and sincere” – an announcement which tempted critics to ask what kind of people the ÖVP has been aiming at so far.Spindelegger is regarded a modest conservative and understood to be on good terms with SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann who fell out with Pröll around half a year ago after months of a good political partnership.The foreign minister and new ÖVP chief made clear he does not represent the party’s liberal circles when he spoke out against a law which erased legal obstacles and disadvantages of homosexual couples. The decree came into effect last year. Spindelegger said at that time gay and lesbian couples should not be allowed to marry at registry offices as this would “create a high possibility” of encounters with them and wedding parties of a man and a woman featuring young children.Spindelegger introduced Wolfgang Waldner as state secretary in his ministry to cope with his responsibilities as party boss, foreign minister and vice chancellor. Reinhold Lopatka was dismissed as finance state secretary at the same time. Lopatka, who organised successful election campaigns for the party in the past, was asked to stay as member of the federal parliament (MP).The new ÖVP head’s decision to nominate Sebastian Kurz as state secretary for integration issues in the interior ministry has caused controversy within the party, among Social Democrats, the opposition parties and in the press. Many analysts expressed doubts whether Kurz – who heads the ÖVP’s youth branch – has enough experience to cope with the highly sensitive topic of integration. The 24-year-old asked his opponents for a “fair chance for me, the post of a state secretary for integration and the issue of integration.”Kurz said he would put the focus on learning German as this was the “key” to a successful integration of foreigners in Austria. Greens chief Eva Glawischnig attacked Kurz in an interview today for remaining silent when the SPÖ-ÖVP administration passed a new immigration law last week.The bylaw says people willing to settle in Austria must prove they speak a basic level of German as they enter the country. Non-government organisations (NGO) claim that people in poor regions across Europe and the rest of the world had no chance to learn the language. The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) criticise the regulation as too lax.