Graz has voted – any surprises?

20 01 2008

Photo: Lisa Rücker, Green Party candidate for Graz, casting her vote on election day.

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.

1,000 Readers & a Happy New Year 2008!

19 01 2008

Slideshow: Some Firework shots, New Year celebration in Vienna 2008 . Copyright: Matthias Wurz

What can I say? Today, almost exactly three months after my first entry in my blog here I have reached 1,000 unique hits! This is amazing, because this is not a commercial site, and I have no time at this stage to strategically develop it, or contribute as regularly as I wish. Nevertheless, there were always readers here, even at times when I had not written anything for weeks. I can only say: Thank you very much!

Let us celebrate this day with some fireworks! And let me also wish you and your families my best regards for the New Year 2008! Despite that I was ill during the holiday season, I was able to watch some of the excellent firework displays from my own apartment on New Year’s Eve, and some of the pictures you can see here now.

Please come back regularly, as I shall be contributing almost daily. This blog is, however, different, from most other blogs, as the entries are much longer. This is because I am drafting stories for the newspaper, or analyze and comment political events, rather than quickly reporting them as any other news agency, paper or television station. It takes time to write and consequently to read. This is, after all, a blog for readers – for You!

The coming days are exciting as ever: Tomorrow are the elections in Graz, and the tension of what effect the racist campaign of the far-right FPÖ has on the overall election result is one I shall be commenting tomorrow. Also, the Democratic Caucasus in Nevada takes place today, and its equally unpredictable result shall give me the opportunity to comment on the political phenomenon Barack Obama.

Lots to come and lots to read! Stay on course, comment on what I am writing and, if applicable, disagree with me. That’s what journalism and writing blogs is all about.

Who is Anybody?

15 01 2008

Video Clip: Excellent short clips by young German producer Jochen Graf for ZARA. Freely available at

Graz, Austria’s second largest city with about 280,000 inhabitants, has upcoming local elections. Not that this is of international, or as a matter of fact national, importance, the struggling local right-extremist FPÖ wished otherwise. Seeking attention on national media, their local party leader exclaimed once of the most horrendous racist remark voiced in an Austrian election campaign. I do not wish to promote neither the comments nor the person, so let us codeword this person as Anybody.
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