Graz coalition collapses

People’s Party (ÖVP) Graz Mayor Siegfried Nagl has ended his faction’s partnership with the Greens.

Nagl announced yesterday (Weds) that the Graz delegation of the ÖVP would not cooperate with the Greens after next year’s city parliament election regardless of the outcome. He criticised the Graz Greens for being unreliable when it comes to working for the city’s residents.

The mayor said his decision to cancel the government coalition agreement earlier than planned was based on disagreements regarding the redesign of a large part of the city. Nagl’s party wanted to turn a large area of the provincial capital of Styria into a new housing area for 12,000 people. Nagl – who is hotly tipped to take an important role in the ÖVP after the next national election – pushed for a plebiscite but the Green Party wanted to wait with holding a referendum until autumn.

Nagl underlined the positive effects of the project yesterday. Greens Vice Mayor Lisa Rücker said today Nagl “apparently lost his nerves”. Speaking to radio station Ö1, Rücker claimed that ÖVP strategists became nervous due to the upcoming elections. She said the annulment of the coalition must have strategic reasons. Rücker made aware of mounting conflicts about driving bans due to soaring fine dust rates and the high likeliness of smog in Graz.

The ÖVP has, according to analysts, the potential to win around 40 per cent in the next city hall vote. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) have chances to bag only 20 per cent, polls show. The Graz section of the SPÖ – which cooperates with the ÖVP in a federal government coalition and on provincial level – claimed it was “surprised” by the split of the ÖVP-Greens coalition. But the left-wing party also emphasised that the current situation could contain potentials for constructive decisions now that all factions are free from the bounds of partnerships.

The SPÖ appears to be aware of the growing demand among voters for more direct democracy as it promised to listen to Graz citizens’ opinion concerning the planned Reininghausgründe building project referendum. The widespread anger about an alleged rise of corruption in politics, tax hikes and never-ending conflicts within the government are expected to boost new movements like the Austrian Pirate Party (PPÖ). The party bagged 3.8 per cent in the recent Innsbruck city hall ballot.

Researchers said the PPÖ could do even better in the Graz election – but also in the federal vote scheduled for autumn 2013. Sophie Karmasin of Vienna-based public opinion agency Karmasin said especially the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) could be affected by the new hype about the PPÖ.

Other experts said that all of the country’s established parties should fear the PPÖ – which has not revealed its stand on urgent topics like the Eurozone crisis, immigration and education – and other up-and-coming movements. ÖVP chairman Michael Spindelegger branded the PPÖ in a recent speech as “political clowns”. Vienna Green Party Vice Mayor Maria Vassilakou said her party might partner up with some PPÖ representatives. She said the Greens “will approach those who fight for data protection and a democratic internet”.