PPÖ sets the sails for Graz

A public opinion researcher has given the Austrian Pirate Party (PPÖ) good chances to enter the city hall of Graz next year.

Sophie Karmasin of Viennese research group Karmasin said the recently established political party might manage to make it into the parliament of the capital of Styria in next year’s city hall ballot. Graz is currently governed by a coalition of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) and Lisa Rücker’s Green faction while Styria has government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and ÖVP.

Karmasin told the Salzburger Nachrichten that new parties and election lists “do not even have to be better (than the established parties in elections at the moment). They only must be different.” She explained that the PPÖ must try to find a dominating topic for its future election campaigns it could focus on. Karmasin mentioned the Greens’ fight for the protection of the environment as an example how a young political movement could succeed in Austrian politics.

Analysts think that medium-term success of the PPÖ is highly likely due to people’s disagreement with many decisions of the SPÖ-ÖVP government and a widespread feeling that no politician is immune to corruption. The PPÖ – which cooperates with its immensely popular German counterpart – captured the city hall of Innsbruck last Sunday.

The regional branch of the party bagged 3.8 per cent in the city parliament ballot – enough to claim one seat in the 40-seat city hall. Innsbruck’s PPÖ department managed to overtake the tradition-rich Austrian Communist Party (KPÖ) which won only 1.4 per cent. The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) was out of reach for the Pirates. It increased its share by 2.7 per cent to 7.7 per cent.

The ÖVP won the election on Sunday. It garnered 21.9 percentage points, up from 14.6 per cent in 2006. Für Innsbruck (FI, For Innsbruck), the political base of Mayor Christine Oppitz-Plörer, came second with 21 per cent. FI won the Innsbruck city hall election of 2006 with 26.8 per cent.

Peter Pilz, who represents the Austrian Greens in the federal parliament, caused a party-internal dispute yesterday by suggesting to nominate PPÖ members in next year’s general ballot. Pilz said some Austrian Pirates should run for the Green Party on election list positions which would give then good chances to make it into parliament.

The Greens’ board immediately reacted to the parliament member’s (MP) statement. A spokesman said such a partnership was nothing the party had in mind. He explained that cooperating with the PPÖ was just an idea of Pilz. The PPÖ said it still had to debate the suggestion of Pilz but added that members “are rather against a partnership of such kind”.

Asked whether he feared losing voters to the PPÖ, SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann said he was not worried at all. ÖVP Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger announced he appreciated the increasing competition on Austria’s political landscape. Spindelegger made aware of his party’s democracy project he had recently kicked off. The ÖVP chairman asked Sebastian Kurz, who heads the party’s federal youth branch, in January to create a concept of how more young people could be encouraged to get active in politics.