Austria's right-wing FPÖ received almost a quarter of the votes in the state elections in Lower Austria. In the election in the largest federal state, which was also considered a national political mood test, the conservative ÖVP chancellor party was able to assert itself as the strongest force. But according to projections, she lost about 10 percentage points and thus the absolute majority in the state parliament and probably also in the state government.
"The FPÖ managed to turn this state election into a federal election," said the Lower Austrian ÖVP leader and Prime Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner. Her party, which was burdened by corruption investigations and global crises, slipped to 39.9 percent - its worst result since 1945. However, Mikl-Leitner ruled out resigning on election night.
FPÖ increases by 9 percentage points
The FPÖ increased by more than 9 percentage points to 24.2 percent and thus achieved its best result in the eastern federal state. The right came to end the "ÖVP system" in Lower Austria, as state party leader Udo Landbauer repeatedly emphasized. By that he meant the decades-long dominance of the Conservatives, which is reflected, among other things, in party-politically motivated appointments down to the municipal level. In addition, Landbauer blamed the ÖVP, led by Chancellor Karl Nehammer, for the sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers in the previous year.
According to the projections, the social democratic SPÖ fell behind the FPÖ by 20.6 percent. The Greens were 7.6 percent, the liberal Neos 6.7 percent. The extrapolation was based on the votes from the ballot boxes that had already been counted in full and a forecast of the postal votes that were only counted at the beginning of the week.
According to surveys, the 1.3 million eligible voters made their decision based on national and global issues such as inflation, the environment and climate, and migration. Before and during the election campaign, the ÖVP had to struggle with a lack of voter confidence due to corruption investigations in the wake of the Ibiza scandal.
FPÖ man: "Corruption deselected"
"Corruption was voted out," said FPÖ federal party manager Christian Hafenecker on Sunday evening. "This is the beginning," he added, referring to the state elections in Carinthia in March and in Salzburg in April. In nationwide surveys, the opposition FPÖ has been in first place for weeks, ahead of the SPÖ and ahead of the ÖVP in third place.
However, the next nationwide parliamentary elections in Austria are not due until 2024. A few weeks ago, FPÖ party leader Herbert Kickl nevertheless launched a broad poster campaign with the slogans "Fortress Austria - close borders - guarantee security". On the advertising space, Kickl wears a military green parka with the red, white and red coat of arms of Austria.
Experts: No impact on government
Political scientists do not yet expect the Lower Austria elections to have any direct impact on the coalition government between the ÖVP and the Greens. However, that could change if there were further ÖVP losses and FPÖ gains in Carinthia and Salzburg. But even if there were early elections, a right-wing chancellor would not be a foregone conclusion even if the FPÖ won: Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen signaled a few days ago that he did not want to give Kickl a government mandate.