Afterimage Review

Christian Kern is the New Austrian Chancellor

Faymann
For the first time in Austrian history a chancellor resigned so that the leader of another party had to temporarily assume the position to continue governance.

Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann, resigns as right wing rises. The vacancy for his replacement is now wide open for Christian Kern to step in.

A funny ad in a job seeker portal offered at 10.05.2016 the vacant position for a chancellor in a European country. The background story: In the middle of presidential election, the Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, who governed Austria for nearly 8 years, has quit his job. 

For the first time in Austrian history a chancellor resigned so that the leader of another party had to temporarily assume the position to continue governance.  

It has been a few rough years as the Socialists had to accept a coalition with the Conservatives. The wounds from losing at each election since he was Chancellor did not heal. More and more people defected to other political parties. But why is the political system changing and the words between the parties separating at such speed and distance?

The best possible explanation for the frequent changes are the annual salary discussions.  Austria is proud that there are basically no strikes or protests. Workers and company owners are used to discussing at tables instead of demonstrating on the streets. The results were shown to the public after the negotiations ended.  It used to be the same in politics. The ruling coalition partners would negotiate to find the best solutions.  Nowadays it seems that everything is more a public discussion than a negotiation.  Everyone points out his/her point of view and refuses to accept anything else. The politicians have lost their purpose: to find a common ground that is acceptable for the majority of their voters.

Impact of Social media

Social media mobilizes the people so fast for or against something even if these mobilized people are not representative of the majority.  But they are disproportionately influential as they put politicians under pressure.

In the last discussion between the two presidential candidates Mr. Hofer accused Mr. Van der Bellen of supporting the Communist Party in his youth. An accusation like this has not been heard in Austria for two generations. This single accusation by Mr. Hofer surely brought him some votes even if the statement was false or greatly exaggerated.

the scandal of the HYPO bank no one seems to remember 

On the other hand there are hard facts. Remember that Austria had its little Lehmann crises in 2006 with the BAWAG bank, which was the bank of the Socialists. This case ended with imprisonment of the Director of that bank and the Socialists didn’t lose as many votes as expected.

Much worse than the BAWAG scandal was the scandal of the HYPO bank. The failure of this bank of the Freedom Party was worse for Austria than the Lehman crisis. The former leader of the Freedom Party Jörg Haider had sold the bank to the Germans in pre-Lehman 2007. It was a good move. But when he died and Lehman troubled the whole world of banks, the Germans put pressure to the Austrian government to take back Hypo in 2009.  For fear of lawsuits they did take back the bank in december 2009 and around 24 billion Euros warranties with it. This money the Austrian tax payer had to pay as no Manager was sued in this case.

But as the BAWAG didn’t hurt the Socialists, the Hypo bank scandal didn’t hurt the Freedom Party that caused the problem. If there were elections today the Freedom Party would likely win the first round.

The Austrian voters are not connecting banks to their parties. It is too abstract for them. The Austrian voter is making a political  judgments by statements like of Mr. Hofer where he is accusing  Van der Bellen of being a former Communist Party member.

The refugee crisis is the most important topic everyone talks about and no one sees the daily business that has to be done. Faymann did his daily job. But he does not have the same charisma as the leader of the Freedom Party. He could not blame today’s political culture as he is representing it. No one seems to understand that the leader of a party is as good as its staff.

Many have called for Faymann’s resignation for a long time

Faymann could have been defined as a politically centrist chancellor. But his own party was not following their Chancellor. For some he was too far left wing (as he didn´t support a possible coalition with the right wing). For some he was too conservative as he found solutions with his coalition partner.

The kick out of the Socialist candidate in the first round of the presidential election and the whistle concert against their own leader at a Labor Day event were two major hits against him. But the final hit was when he heard that five federal leaders of the socialist party met to conspire against him. They wanted to reschedule the Socialist’s convention for an earlier date to talk about the presidential election and the options for human resources in their party. The very same day Werner Faymann resigned.

Many have called for Faymann’s resignation for a long time. It was easy to say to someone to step back, but when he finally did, everyone seemed surprised. For the first time in Austrian history a chancellor resigned so that the leader of another party had to temporarily assume the position to continue governance. Deputy Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner is to take over as chancellor on an interim basis.Austria’s senior coalition party has officially nominated  Christian Kern as the Austrian next chancellor.

 

The next parliament elections are in 2018. Until then the Socialists have time to take a new position that guarantees professionalism with its coalition partner (the Conservative party) but also a position that shows that Socialists might be better to vote for than the Freedom Party.

 

Copyright: DeepGreen
Editorial Credit: DeepGreen / Shutterstock.com

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About the author

S

"S" is a history expert and a lover of Kennan's papers. He lived in several European countries. In Spain he saw that nearly every second person between 15 and 24 gets unemployed. In Luxembourg, he soon realized it will become next to London —a Chinese currency hub. S. currently lives in Austria where he experienced the trains and refugee camps.