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Korruption och ryskt inflytande i fokus när Österrike går till val

Den politiska "Ibiza-skandalen" i Österrike undgick få i vårens nyhetsflöde. I september håller Österrike nyval efter att regeringen fått avgå efter skandalen, och vi har ställt några frågor om valet till Nikola Donig, partisekreterare för Centerpartiets österrikiska systerparti NEOS.

This snap election, to be held on September 29th , was called because the coalition between the EPP member ÖVP and the far right FPÖ fell apart after the Ibiza scandal. In May, Sebastian Kurz was the first Austrian chancellor to lose a no-confidence vote in modern history. How has this turbulent background impacted the election campaign so far?

The extent of willingness for corruption shown in the Ibiza video was, even for the FPÖ - whose officials were involved in various scandals in the past years - shockingly high. Especially, considering the person talking about selling Austrian companies to Russia, shortly after became vice-chancellor of the country. More than three months after the disruption of the government, the citizens’ confidence in the political system is still shaken, with new developments in this case, coming up almost daily. Due to Ibiza and its following events, corruption and financial donations to political parties are dominating topics in this election campaign.

NEOS has a long term record of transparency and compliance, by being the only party openly publishing their incomes and spendings 365 days a year. Although we believe that 100% transparency is the base for good future politics, we also know that it is not sufficient for winning elections.

The Kurtz government was very symbolic for the European political developments of
recent years, both with a far-right party coming into government, a weakened Social
Democratic party, and an unstable coalition which did not last its full mandate. Looking
forward, do you think this trend will continue in Austria?

Current polls show a high probability, for Sebastian Kurz “Neue Volkspartei” being most voted party again. Apart from that, nothing is set in stone yet. What we hear and see is, that people are tired of fighting, corruption and scandals. This election will be a general decision for Austria with the options being the following:

  • A prolongation of a coalition of nationalism and scandals (ÖVP-FPÖ).
  • A repeat of the so-called “Stillstand” Coalition with Conservatives and Social Democrats.
  • And the last option, which is something unknown to Austria: A coalition between
    Conservatives and Greens and/or Liberals.

What we can definitely say is, that no matter the final results of this election, the system is changing. We do not know how quickly, but the “old Austria” is definitely dying.

With the election fast approaching, what are the most important issues concerning the
Austrian voters?

One thing we can say for sure, is that climate change and the protection of our environment are the topics of the election and given hometurfs of the Greens. As sustainability has always been part of our values, we approach the topic with a clear pro-economy stand, differentiating us from the other parties. Apart from climate and environment, there are surprisingly few issues the voters are concerned about, with one of them being transparency regarding donations and party finances, especially in the aftermath of the Ibiza events.

Which issues are the focus of the NEOS campaign?

As only two years have passed since the last nationwide election campaign, our core demands and values have not changed, but became even more important and urgent. From day one, high-quality education for every child, irrespective of its socio-economic background, has been our biggest concern and still is. Besides education, we strongly focus on responsible politics in various areas.

Another distinction from the Greens is that for us, sustainability starts with environment, but definitely does not end there. Additionally, when talking about sustainability, we always emphasize the urgent need for a reform of our retirement system, as it is not only extremely inefficient and unfair, but also leaving our children burdened with debts. Being the liberal party we are, the fight against nationalism has accompanied us through various campaigns and the same goes for our dedication to being 100 % transparent and compliant, regarding the financial aspects of our campaign. The combination of all these aspects is unique in the political landscape in Austria, a fact that is also represented in our campaign slogan: Nobody else will do it.