A Chancellor with Expiry Date

26 06 2008

Who Needs Socialdemocrats? – The Austrian Version, Commentary


Photo: Thumbs up for the SPÖ with dual party leadership?

When Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (SPÖ) announced on June 15 a minor reshuffle within the Socialdemocratic government ministers, the political commentators were not particularly estonished. The annoncement of a split between the position of a Chancellor – Alfred Gusenbauer – and the SPÖ party leadership – Werner Faymann, to be nominated later this year -, however, was a major political development, for which Austria has almost no tradition.

“In a time in which Socialdemocrats should prosper as never before, it rarely has gone worse for them (politically). Everyone speaks of fairness, but the Socialdemocrats speak about themselves,” so Heribert Prantl, editor for Domestic Politics at the influential German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on June 14. He was not, however, predicting the political moves of the Austrian Socialdemocrats a few days ahead, but rather analyzing the current state of affairs for the German SPD.

Although both Socialdemocratic parties developed under different political circumstances and conducted their influence in their respective countries in different political constelations, the situation at this point in time is almost identical and best to be understood in a decline of the Socialdemocratic movement within European democracies.

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