Austrian election: immigration issues, a “Kurz-effect” and House of Cards


Austria’s election is around the corner and the centre-right ÖVP heads the current polls. The election will follow an intense and heated campaign, which was not always based on rational arguments but rather on accusations and scandals. Here is some key information about what you need to know about Sunday’s election and insightful additional readings:

A major topic dominating the discussions surrounding the Austrian national election was and is the expected success of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). They profit from the debate about the high numbers of asylum seekers in 2015 and related issues which have a high priority for the electorate. A contribution at the CISE blog picks up on the effects of the immigrant-centered debate and elaborates on the question why the Socialdemocrats (SPÖ) might have lost grounds to the ÖVP and the FPÖ. Plescia, Kritzinger and Oberluggauer maintain that the SPÖ, in contrast to the other two major parties, were not able to focus their campaigns on topics for which they have long-standing reputations for competence according to the voters such as unemployment and affordable homes. Consequently, as Weisskircher and Bergman argue in a contribution to the Monkey Cage, the radical rights stands good chances to govern after the election, but will not be the main winner of this election.

In contrast, the most recent polls suggest that the conservative party is in the middle of an impressive finish often referred to as the “Kurz effect” (after their chancellor candidate). On the LSE blog, Eberl, Zeglovits and Sickinger highlight his approach to present the ÖVP as a personalized list of candidates with little policy statements and elaborate on the reactions of the opposing parties to this catch-all strategy. Groendahl presents a portrait of the popular ÖVP candidate at Bloomberg Politics, who is the foreign minister and – at the age of 31 – looks back at an impressive political carrier. 

A confusing debate some readers might have heard about relates to the dirty campaigning scandal that resembles an episode of the American TV show ‘House of cards’. At the heart of the scandal is a the question whether the big names in the Socialdemocratic party new about a Facebook page spreading fake news with racist content about Kurz. At Politico, Karnitschnig presents a review of what we know and what is mere speculation with regard to the course of events in September, with a contribution bei Oltermann in the Gurdian catching-up on the most recent developments.

In many ways, this was most certainly the dirtiest election campaign Austria has experienced. On Sunday, we will know more about who profited the most from recent scandals and the immigration focused debate. 


Authors: Sarah C. Dingler and Corinna Kroeber in October 2017

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