Graz has voted, and with all the districts counted, there is a clear winner: the Green Party led by Lisa Rücker (see picture above), gaining 6.10% now holding 14.60 % and the third place (previously fourth). The party had the highest increase of votes, almost doubled. Despite all the racist rattling by FPÖ under Susanne Winter the weeks before (see also my blog entry here), the party remains the fifth strongest, nevertheless gaining votes (now 10.80%). The Communist Party (KPÖ), strong in 2003, has dramatically lost and is down at 11.20% and the fourth place. Of the two large parties, the conservative ÖVP has confirmed its pole position (currently 38.40%), first acquired in 2003, with gains in votes, while the challenger, the Socialdemocrats (SPÖ), lost further, down to 19.70%. The far-right BZÖ of Jörg Haider gained 4.30% of the votes, also represented in the Gemeinderat.
Winter’s incompetent, hurting and racist comments seemed to have one effect: Strengthening the opponents. Firstly, the Green Party. Winter’s comment aided Green politician Rücker who gained profile and strengthening the party’s presence in the public and mobilizing the Green electorate . And voters disappointed by the the KPÖ – the popular leader Ernest Kaltenegger has left city politics for the Landtag (Regional Parliament) – rather chose not to vote this time or vote ‘green’; not the Socialdemocrats or the far-right FPÖ. Secondly, the second winner was the BZÖ: The result of 4.20% of votes is the strongest showing since the last General Elections of October 1, 2006.
What conclusions can be made? That remains up to the political parties in Graz. A strong showing of the Green Party gives hope for changes in Austria, establishing them as the third political force, already indicated in the 2006 General elections where the Greens landed third. On the far-right, the consequences are evident: The struggle of who represents this political spectrum is undecided still, though the FPÖ has the overall stronger showing. The 1990s, however, when Jörg Haider still led the party and massively gained votes in opposition, seem finally over. Together, however, the far-right would have won over the Greens and gone third.