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POLITICS

Why is support for Austria’s far-right FPÖ rising?

Some polls already put Austria's Freedom party in the lead, with up to 25 percent of voters saying they would choose the far-right party. But why are they riding high in the polls?

Why is support for Austria's far-right FPÖ rising?
The leader of the FPÖ and former Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl waves the Austrian flag as he arrives on stage to address supporters at an election rally of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) in Vienna, Austria on September 27, 2019. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

What’s happening?

Austria’s Freedom Party, the FPÖ, has been steadily climbing in recent polls. This weekend, it took the lead in the OGM/Kurier poll, with 25 percent of respondents saying they would vote for the party, followed by the centre-left SPÖ (24 percent) and the centre-right ÖVP (19 percent).

The FPÖ peaked at 26 percent in the 2017 national elections, when it became a junior partner in government with the ÖVP. Both parties rode the wave of anti-migration speeches as Europe faced the migrant crisis of 2015-16.

However, just two years later, the government collapsed when videos of the vice-chancellor and head of FPÖ Heinz-Christian Strache, offering public contracts in exchange for political support surfaced. The scandal was known as Ibizagate and investigations are still ongoing.

At the time, FPÖ dipped in polls and has been in the opposition since then. However, a combination of “short-term memory” among the population and the permanence of controversial topics such as migration benefits the blue party, political experts have told Austrian media.

Migration crisis

“The FPÖ has an advantage in the competition on topics. Everything that concerns immigration benefits it (the party),” said politics professor Peter Filzmaier.

In 2015, the ÖVP was able to also ride on the anti-immigration discourse with soon-to-be chancellor Sebastian Kurz. However, current ÖVP leader Karl Nehammer hasn’t been able to do the same. 

Firstly, it is not as easy to give inflammatory speeches once you are actually in power, but mainly because any discourse that could be seen as discriminatory or too far-right would put the party in direct confrontation with its more left-leaning junior partner, the Greens.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Who are the asylum seekers trying to settle in Austria?

“The issue is fuelled by riots like the one in Linz, tent debates, rising asylum numbers, and border protection debates. This creates fear”, said Christoph Haselmayer, from the poling institute IFDD.

“And plays into the hands of the FPÖ”, he added.

ÖVP losing votes

Poll institutes have also seen a transfer of votes to the FPÖ from the ÖVP, which currently leads the country with chancellor Karl Nehammer.

READ ALSO: Is Austria’s Freedom Party a ‘far-right’ party?

Many factors could explain this. One is the numerous corruption scandals that have involved the centre-right ÖVP over the past few years – leading up to the resignation of once-wunderkind Sebastian Kurz, who left politics altogether and denies any corruption allegations. 

What started out as an investigation of alleged corruption by an FPÖ leader became much broader and now leaked chats and conversations expose corruption schemes that involve, in large part, the current government. 

Another reason for the voter migration was the current government’s dealing with the coronavirus pandemic – and the fierce opposition and vaccine scepticism presented by the FPÖ. 

READ ALSO: What measures against foreigners is Austria’s far-right trying to take?

The far-right party was a protagonist among corona-deniers and vaccine sceptics in Austria and gathered support during its weekly demonstrations against any pandemic measures proposed by the federal government. 

How likely is it that the party will govern Austria?

Austria habitually takes voting intention polls, even in non-election years. But, as it stands, Austrians will only head to the polls again to choose a new parliament in 2024, so much can change by then.

The opposition, especially the FPÖ and SPÖ, has been asking for new elections due to the ongoing corruption scandals hitting the government in Austria. However, they have so far failed to gather the necessary majority to call for a new government.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How do Austrians elect their chancellor?

Even if the FPÖ consolidates a lead in voting intentions, it’s unlikely it will get a majority. This means it would have to find a coalition partner – which could prove problematic in a scenario where most parties would be unwilling to partner with the far-right. This reluctance, of course, could change, especially as the FPÖ grows.

The more likely scenario at the moment is that the FPÖ will be a strong opposition force in Parliament while other parties, mainly SPÖ and possibly ÖVP, NEOS, Greens and even the Bier Partei, join in a coalition excluding the far-right.

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POLITICS

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

Politicians in Austria are getting a 5.3 percent salary increase in 2023 as inflation rises in the country. So how much will they earn?

How much do Austrian politicians earn as a monthly salary?

The rising inflation rate, which is expected to be at 10.6 percent in November, is reflected in the salaries of politicians in Austria, according to the official gazette of the Wiener Zeitung.

According to Austrian law, all salaries are calculated based on the income of the members of the National Council, the Austrian Parliament. Next year, they will receive €9,873 gross per month – €497 more than their salaries in 2022. The values were rounded to the whole euro amount. 

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?

So, how much are the leading politicians going to earn as a monthly gross salary in 2023?

  • Bundespräsident: the head of the Austrian State (Federal President) will earn €26,701 per month. Alexander Van der Bellen was reelected to the position and should stay in the job for six more years
  • Bundeskanzler: the head of the Austrian government (Chancellor) will earn €23,840 per month. That’s the salary of Karl Nehammer (ÖVP), who is expected to run for reelection in the next national elections set for 2024
  • Vizekanzler: the current vice-chancellor is Werner Kögler (Greens), and he is set to earn €20,979 from 2023
  • NR-Präsident: this refers to the leader of the National Council (Nationalrat, in German), who earns €20,026. Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) holds the position
  • Landeshauptleute: this German word literally means “main persons of the province”. (Land means country, but it actually refers to the bundesländer, the country’s states or provinces). These are the current governors of the Austrian provinces, such as Michael Ludwig (SPÖ), mayor of the city-state of Vienna. They’ll earn €19,072 per month
  • Ministerin/Minister: Ministers of the federal government, including Health and Social Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens), will earn €19,072 every month
  • Landesrätin/-rat: the provincial councillors should earn €17,771 every month from 2023
  • Staatssekretärin/-sekretär: State secretaries, who play the part of Ministers in the provincial level, will earn €17,165
  • Bundesratsmitglieder: a “member of the Bundesrat”, which is the upper house in the Austrian parliament, will earn €4,936 per month

READ ALSO: Explained: How to understand your payslip in Austria

In Austria, hired employees are paid 14 times per year, with extra salaries ahead of summer holidays and Christmas.

Unless the National Council decides against the pay rise, the increase will come into effect on January 1st 2023.

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