The leftist Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs (Social Democratic Party of Austria, or SPÖ) has started campaigning in Turkish and Arabic for the upcoming national elections set for September 29th, in a last-ditch attempt to make up numbers as increasing swathes of native Austrians switch support to the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Freedom Party of Austria, or FPÖ).
The SPÖ has already issued posters written completely in Turkish and Arabic as part of their campaign, as opinion polls show that the FPÖ is set to poll anywhere between 18 and 21 percent of the vote—which would place it well among the top three parties.
If the expected FPÖ vote materializes, and is added to the predicted votes of the two smaller rightist populist parties (the “Team Stronach” spoiler group set up by the establishment to draw votes away from the FPÖ, and the even smaller BZÖ party, said to get eight and two percent respectively), then it is theoretically possible for a coalition of these three groups to form the next Austrian government.
It is partly in order to counteract this possibility that the Socialists have resorted to trying to get the non-European vote out to try and beat native Austrian voters. According to the European Union’s official statistics bureau, Eurostat, in 2010 there were 1.27 million foreign-born residents in Austria, corresponding to 15.2% of the total population. Of these, 0.764 million (9.1%) were born outside the EU and 0.512 million (6.1%) were born in another EU Member State.
Those born outside the EU include 350,000 ethnic Turks (including a minority of Turkish Kurds) who make up about 3% of the total population.
Meanwhile, the FPÖ’s “Love thy neighbour” campaign road show goes from strength to strength. The campaign phrase (“Nächstenliebe”)—which party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said, “For me, this means our Austrians”—has been condemned by the Catholic Church and other religious leaders.
Despite this opposition, tens of thousands of Austrians have turned out to the public gatherings—sometimes as many as three per day—held by party leader Heinz-Christian Strache. One of the latest gatherings—in the town of Graz—saw the largest open-air gathering in the town seen in decades (image below) and is fairly typical of the turnouts experienced all over the country.
Some people in the largest conservative party, the Österreichische Volkspartei (Austrian People’s Party, or ÖVP) have suggested that they may consider going into collation with the FPÖ, as they did with that party when it was still led by Jorg Haider.