As you may remember, the ruling socialist mayor faced a showdown with an ultra-right wing opponent and nobody knew who would win
So, what happened in Vienna? You may have read one of the latest Pmp articles about the city council election in Vienna, Austria (if not, The New York Times have been writing about it as well, so shame on you.) Anyhow, I promised to follow up.
As you may remember, the ruling socialist mayor faced a showdown with an ultra-right wing opponent and nobody knew who would win. The election is over and the showdown….well actually there was no showdown. Mr. Häupl, the current mayor, won with 9% separating him from his right-wing opponent Mr. Strache. Even though the mayor’s socialist party lost nearly 5%, the result was seen as a victory: The mayor is back in office, the evil right-wingers lost, the city was saved. So far, so good. But is every thing back to old?
Two things must be taken home from this election. First of all, polls aren‘t that reliable as we think they are, especially in a election in which many people voted tactically, meaning many people voted for the socialist, who normally would not, just to avoid a far-right victory. In situations like this it is very hard to get into the minds of voters as they themselves may struggle with crossing ideological boundaries and may only come to a decision once they are about to cast their vote. Mayor Häupl however was quite clever by using the close race in the polls to mobilize voters who wanted to stop the far-right by all means to vote for him.
The second thing to note is that even though the socialist party won, and it is likely that the current coalition of socialists and the Green Party will continue, the Freedom Party reached slightly over 30% of all votes. This means almost every third person in Vienna identifies with the far-right politics of Mr. Strache. So on the outside it may appear that Vienna is a liberal, world open city, but if you take a closer look, one will also be able to see a city filled with narrow mindedness and a desire to hear simple answers to complex problems.
So, what should we think about this election in which the good guys won, but actually they didn‘t? As I wrote in my article before the election, the rise of such parties as the Freedom Party can be seen as an indicator of the success or failure of the politics of the established parties. So quite frankly, at this point one must really hope that the socialist party, now back in power, will find a way to navigate the city through these not-so-easy times. They must try to understand the fears and worries people have about the future and make them feel like they are heard, rather than making these people run into the arms of radical parties. The coming years won‘t be easy for the city government, but we might just have to get used to that.