From one election in Burgenland…
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The regional elections in Burgenland on Sunday 3 December were considered a success for the two opposition parties, the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Greens. These two parties increased their share of the vote as compared with the previous elections in 1996. Furthermore, the entry of the Greens into the regional assembly (Landtag) of Burgenland could lead to the formation of a SPÖ-Green coalition.
This coalition would probably get a majority of 19 seats. An alliance of the People's Party and the Freedom Party would probably result in only 17 seats. (see results in table below)
|Actual Seats||Projected Seats|
|Social Democrat Party (SPÖ)||46.58 per cent (+2.13 per cent)||17|
|People's Party (ÖVP)||35.3 per cent|
(-0.76 per cent)
|Freedom Party (FPÖ)||12.65 per cent|
(-1.9 per cent)
|The Greens||5.47 per cent
(+ 2.98 per cent)
The chairman of the People's Party in Burgenland, Gerhard Jellasitz, resigned following the failure of his party to increase its share of the vote and was immediately replaced by Franz Steindl.
The negotiations between the four parties concerning the establishment of a governmental majority were due to start on Monday 11 December.
To another election in Vienna...
The results of the Burgenland elections and the possibility of a "red-green" coalition at the regional level have focused the attention of Austrian politicians on next year's regional election in Vienna.
The leader of the Green Party at the national level, Alexander van der Bellen, argued that "the SPÖ must give a signal" that it favours a coalition with his party. He thought that this should apply not only to Burgenland but also to Vienna. He criticised Michael Häupl, the mayor of Vienna, for his unwillingness to embrace the "red-green" option and his apparent attempt to maintain the existing regional coalition between SPÖ and ÖVP. Van der Bellen described this kind of regional coalition as "a model of the past."
The chairman of the SPÖ, Alfred Gusenbauer, however, insisted on Friday in an interview with the Kleine Zeitung that there was nothing inevitable about an agreement between the Social Democrats and the Greens. The People's Party accused the Greens of political opportunism.
The date for the 2001 elections in Vienna is still to be determined. The talks held on Tuesday 5 December between the parties currently in the regional assembly failed to produce an agreement.
The Social Democrats and the Greens favour an early election in the spring. According to Häupl, this is a way to avoid a "one-year election campaign." The People's Party and its chairman in Vienna, Bernhard Gorg, contend that the assembly's mandate expires only in the following autumn and there is no reason to hold elections before the deadline.
Austria and Europe
It has been said that the sanctions imposed by the European Union against Austria reinforced anti-European feelings in the alpine republic. This was apparently confirmed this week when an organisation called Aktion EU-Austritt (Action Exit the EU) announced that it had managed to collect 193,885 signatures asking for a new referendum to be held on EU membership.
According to Austria's constitution, only 100,000 signatures are needed to force a debate on the issue in the national assembly. All four parliamentary parties have acknowledged the concerns of the population, who believe that EU membership is bad for Austria. At the same time they firmly reject the idea that Austria could leave the EU.
Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner were, of course, in Nice for the meeting of the European Council. Austria was hoping to secure the maintenance of the principle "one state, one commissioner." This would run against French-sponsored plans for the creation of a rotating membership for the Commission.
Ferrero-Waldner also stated before the summit that "enlargement would be [her] priority for the next two years" and noted that she expected the first applicant states to join the EU between 2003 and 2005 (Kurier).
And in other news...
- Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel will meet the Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman in the Austrian town of Melk on 12 December. The talks will focus on the controversial Czech nuclear plant of Temelin. Green Spokeswoman for Environment Ewa Glawischnig accused the Austrian government in the national assembly of being prepared to compromise and abandon its previous demand that Temelin should be shut down.
- The conservative daily Die Presse reported that a project for the reform of Austria's federal system was being seriously discussed in certain political circles. According to the plans drafted by Johannes Pichler, law professor at the University of Graz, the nine regional assemblies would be merged into a single general regional assembly (Generallandtag).
- The new "general regional assembly" would have 40 members—one party delegate for each region. This delegate would have a certain number of votes which would correspond to his party's share of the votes in his region. The project implies the abolition of Austria's Upper House, the Bundesrat, and is seen as potentially interesting to Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser.
- The Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) held its 31st congress on Friday in Vienna. Communist Party Chairman Walter Baier denounced the ÖVP-FPÖ government's policies as founded on a "neoliberal consensus" and added that the two opposition parties (the Social-democrats and the Greens) had also failed to put forward and uphold progressive social policies.
- Governor of the region of Carinthia and former chairman of the Freedom Party, Jörg Haider, confirmed this week that he was determined to travel to the Vatican on 16 December and meet Pope John Paul II as a member of a Carinthian delegation who is to present the Holy Father with a Christmas tree. Haider stated that he would ignore the demonstrations and protests which are being organised by Italian activists during his visit.
Magali Perrault, 8 December 2000
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Today's updated headlines from Austria