In Austria, the Social Democrats remained the strongest party in the state elections in Carinthia, according to initial projections, but lost a surprising number of votes. According to the preliminary final result, the minus is nine percentage points. The SPÖ is now at 38.9 percent.
In purely mathematical terms, a coalition of right-wing conservative forces against the Social Democrats, who have been in power for ten years, is now possible in Austria's southernmost federal state. The biggest surprise was the performance of Chancellor Karl Nehammer's conservative ÖVP. The ÖVP increased by 1.6 percentage points to 17 percent. Surveys had predicted significant losses for the ÖVP.
Right-wing populists are increasing
The right-wing FPÖ gained slightly on Sunday and reached 24.6 percent. The Carinthia team, treated as a populist alternative to the FPÖ, almost doubled its share of the vote and reached 10.1 percent. The Greens and the liberal Neos failed again at the five percent hurdle.
"This result hurts a lot," said SPÖ Prime Minister Peter Kaiser. The 64-year-old wants to talk about a coalition with all other parties represented in the state parliament. So far, the SPÖ has governed together with the ÖVP. Their top candidate Martin Gruber left open whether another alliance might be attractive in the future.
Consequences for SPÖ leader Rendi-Wagner?
The performance of the SPÖ in Carinthia should fuel the internal party debate about the SPÖ chairwoman Pamela Rendi-Wagner again. From the point of view of her critics, the 51-year-old doctor only has a manageable charisma. In the state elections in Lower Austria in January, the SPÖ slipped to a record minus. Despite proposals such as rent control, the largest opposition party in the federal government is currently unable to benefit from issues such as inflation and affordable housing.
The third and last state election in Austria in the current year will take place on April 23 in the state of Salzburg.