last sunday austria held its national parliamentary elections. the results were regarded as „paradox“ by observers, some were even left „clueless“. first of all, the outcome showed three winners and three losers:
the first winner was the center-right people’s party (övp) lead by their young former chancellor sebastian kurz (+5,9%). the second winners were the leftist greens (grüne), who re-entered parliament with their best result ever (+10,1%). the third winners were the liberals (neos), also with their best result in their young history (+2,8%).
the losers were first the center-left social democrats (spö), the oldest party in austria (-5,7%). the biggest losers were the far-right freedom party, being hit by massive scandals before the elections (-9,8%). the third losers were a seperate group of greens, who did not manage to gain seats in parliament again (-2,5%).
the analysis showed that center-right people’s party (övp) massively won votes from far-right freedom party (fpö), as well as the leftist greens (grüne) massively won at the expense of center-left social democrats (spö). above that the social democrats lost votes to the people’s party, and the freedom party lost to the non-voters.
now austrian political observers are wondering: when the far-right freedom party imploded as part of former government because of massive scandals, why did the social democrats as former opposition not gain anything out of this situation? far worse, the social democrats lost massively, too. and worst of all, former freedom party voters prefered even to stay away instead of voting for social democrats.
this development is not „inexplicable“ or „paradox“, as some leftist observers state. on the contrary, it’s totally logical, if we just leave the old, odd, and overcome scheme of „left“ and „right“. instead we could use the following matrix:
if we only judge the two characteristics „open-closed“ and „progressive-conservative“, we can see that the social democrats are the most conservative party in their approaches. no wonder, as the oldest party in austria it is not at all progressive any more, but on the contrary the most traditional one. and, as we can see, the most traditional parties lost the most. the social democrats were founded already in 1889, the freedom party in 1956.
on the other hand the most progressive parties with the most advanced approach were the winners. one could call it „paradox“ to see just the so called „conservative“ people’s party as the most progressive one. but one has to know, that the people’s party was re-founded in 2017 by sebastian kurz, when he took over the lead of the party to form it into a „movement“. in this view the liberal neos, founded in 2012, are the second youngest party meanwhile, while the greens, founded in 1986, are already quite old.
in austria „left“ and „right“ have become shallow synonyms of quarrel, more than anywhere else in europe. the most accurate explanation of „left“ and „right“ is not „progressive“ versus „conservative“ anymore, but „open“ versus „closed“. if we therefore take a look at the vertical axis we can see, that the so called „leftist“ parties promote an open society with democratic structures, the greens in the most extreme way. on the other hand the two „rightist“ parties approve of a closed society, the far-right freedom party up to the core. this goes along with their inner party structures, giving the heads of the parties great power to execute their will.
so what consequence can be drawn out of this – especially for the wounded social democratic party? the social democrats have exactly two alternatives: either they are becoming more open and will gain votes from the greens – or they are becoming more closed and will gain votes from the freedom party. and the decision has to be crystal clear, either – or. nobody on the „right“ would vote for a „leftist“ party (they even rather stay absent!) and none of the „left“ would vote for a „non-left“ party (they rather vote the greens).
the social democrats have always been the party of compromise, and this finally led to their ongoing desaster (the party has constantly declined since 1979). therefore they cannot be expected to solve this problem. instead they are going to break up. and it’s easy to foresee: the new founded „non-leftist“ progressive part will be the closed one, with hierarchic structures and only one main theme: security.
otherwise nobody will need them any more.