Budgetary Giveaways in 19 Hours and 13 Minutes

28 09 2008

Photo: BZÖ Party Leader Jörg Haider campaigning, General Elections, September 2008

When entering the Columbus Shopping Center in Favoritenstrasse on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008, the late weekend shopper in need of some groceries or a quick cup of coffee encountered a large crowd of a few dozens of people, gathered around a small podium next to the escalator with a two presenters on stage, right in front of a wooden cow.

Evidently it is the end of the harvest season, traditionally celebrated with the so-called Erntedankfest; and wrapped baskets of organic goodies from local supermarket down below seemed to underline the seasonal festivities, enriched by folk music played loudly over loudspeakers.

But that was not seemingly so, as the presenter announced at 4 pm that the Shopping Center is about to give away hundreds of prizes, which can be won instantly by answering simple questions. A show of hands, or later by phoning in – the right answer presumed – the lucky customer could immediately pick up his prize and continue shopping.

The questions were simple indeed, though subjective at times; and so were the answers, such as “Which is the most popular shopping center in Vienna?” When the response from the crowd was “Donauzentrum” the moderator was evidently disappointed. But luckily the person on the phone, an elderly lady “from the 10th district neighborhood”, took the right guess and became the lucky winner of a coffee machine.

So, as the packed crowd followed each question with full excitement, some of the bystanders shake their heads and murmured that these questions were ridiculous simple and their answers as well.

In the past three days, the Austrian electorate was also presented with a large number of ‘giveaways’. Not least, it is election time, and activists of all political parties were handing out all kinds of goodies, from cigarette lighters to pens and herb seeds, and, of course, balloons for the kids. Those were also noticeable in the Columbus Center that Saturday afternoon as parties still were campaigning on the streets. It was, after all, one day before the snap elections, almost three months after parliament decided to hold general elections on Sept. 28. Read the rest of this entry »