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Austrian elections: Who will be the Social Democratic Party's chancellor candidate?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
Austrian elections: Who will be the Social Democratic Party's chancellor candidate?
Pamela Rendi-Wagner, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPOe) (Photo by VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

Three politicians are running to lead one of Austria's biggest parties: Rendi-Wagner, Doskozil, and Babler. Who are they and what are their chances?

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Austrians are following a critical race in the next few weeks: the competition for the presidency of centre-left party SPÖ, the Social Democratic Party of Austria and one of its oldest and most relevant political institutions.

The head of the SPÖ will also be its leading candidate and primary representative for the 2024 national elections - that person could then be the next chancellor of Austria. So, who's vying for the spot?

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

Pamela Rendi-Wagner

The leading candidate is the current leader of the SPÖ, Pamela Rendi-Wagner. The Viennese 51-year-old is a feminist and politician who has served as the party's chairwoman since late 2018.

Before becoming the first woman to lead the SPÖ, she was the director-general for Public Health in the Federal Ministry of Health, having a degree in Medicine from the University of Vienna.

She has been a leader of the centre-left opposition party, often criticising the federal government's policies during the coronavirus pandemic. However, she has also remained largely aside from major scandals or controversies, often defending issues such as an "end to child poverty" and better working conditions for workers. 

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However, as the SPÖ has dipped in voter intention polls (with a rise of far-right FPÖ), her leadership and ability to put together a strong campaign ahead of the 2024 elections have been put into question, leading up to the coming vote on whether or not she should remain as chairwoman of the SPÖ. 

Rendi-Wagner is married to a former Austrian ambassador to Israel and has two daughters.

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Hans Peter Doskozil

Doskozil, the Burgenland governor, is also the main opposition candidate in the run - and the man that started the race. 

He has been one of the prominent critics of Rendi-Wagner's political tactics and called for the SPÖ to have a more rigid stance as the opposition party. This year, he officially announced that he'd be running for the top position within the SPÖ party, challenging the current leadership. 

Doskozil is currently campaigning for the spot and said he would focus on projects already implemented in the eastern state where he is governor, such as defending a minimum wage of €2,000, the restructuring of care facilities and free kindergarten. 

READ ALSO: ‘Inhuman speech’: Austria’s far-right blasted for wanting to tie social benefits to German skills

Doskozil’s migration policy is based on the principle of “integration before new arrivals and rapid assistance on the ground”, according to his announced programme. He was defence minister during 2016/17, at the height of the migrant crisis in Europe and is considered to have a tougher stance on asylum policies.

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Andreas Babler 

The third and final candidate for the SPÖ leadership is Andreas Babler, the 50-year-old mayor of Traiskirchen in Lower Austria. 

The small town in a typically more right-wing province is known for having Austria's largest refugee camp - and its left-wing mayor. Babler has highlighted how the city and its residents have "lived together" with refugees and promoted relief actions for them. 

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

He is not as well known as the other two candidates, but his campaign has been big online and on social media, gathering the support necessary to try the ballot. 

How will the next leader be chosen?

From April 24th to May 10th, the almost 150,000 members of the SPÖ will be asked to submit a vote either online or by mail. Then, no earlier than May 22nd, the vote results will be made public. 

On June 3rd, the SPÖ is scheduled to elect the chosen candidate as its leader formally.

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