Austrian election results confirm the crisis trends of European social democracy

The Social Democrats in Western Europe have forgotten how to persuade and inspire

Early parliamentary elections took place on October 15, in Austria. The miracle did not happen. The Social Democratic Party of Austria (SDPA) has taken only the third place (26,7%). The conservative Austrian People's Party (APP) gained a victory (31,4%). The far-right populist Austrian Freedom Party (AFP) of Heinz-Christian Strache won 27,4% of votes.

Total fiasco of SDPA fit into sustainable trend crisis trends of European social democracy. In 2000 the Social Democrats or the Socialists ruled in ten of the fifteen EU member countries. Today they are represented only in the fourth part of the 27 member countries: Malta, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia.

The Social Democrats have left deep impression on post-war Western Europe more than any other political movement. Today, when globalization has a strong pressure on the social system and increases the gap between rich and poor, when there is virtually no social mobility, people should vote for social democratic parties. But this is not happening, even when the main election theme is a social justice. Everybody remembers the example of M.Schulz in Germany - the Social Democrats have forgotten how to persuade and inspire.

Christian Kern (age 51), elected by Social Democratic Chancellor 500 days ago, declared itself as a modernizer, who broke with the "obsessed with power and staying in the past" old party staff. He has rejuvenated the government (no one in his team has not crossed age limit 40 years), has promised a breakthrough in the future as the designer of the "Austrian dream," promised that everyone would get a chance for a happy life. People even started to call him "Austrian Obama." But according to the results of the parliamentary elections, he lost the post of the Federal Chancellor.

Three factors worked against Kern by the end of the election race.

The first factor is the general crisis of European social democracy. In terms of expansion of services and digital technologies development, the Social Democrats began to lose their traditional voters – representatives of working professions. The shift in the centre of a political landscape, where the middle classes dominate, removed the fundamental differences between the Social Democrats and other centrist parties. Voters have no clear answer of what the Social Democrats are, so the part of them flows to the left and right populists, who offer some alternatives that suit their centrist course.

The second factor is Sebastian Kurz, a conservative opponent of the Social Democratic Chancellor, Chairman of the Austrian People's Party, and Foreign Minister in the Kern’s government coalition. He relied on his youth (31 years old), a hard line in immigration policy, right populist slogans. Kurtz suggested the society the classic social-democratic themes. He talked about the need to raise pensions, to reduce the rent, pointing out the contradictions between the big corporations and the "little people," who, working 40 hours a week, cannot live on their small salary. People perceived him as a representative of the old social democracy.

The third factor is the scandalous revelations of the Profil magazine and the daily newspaper Die Presse concerning dirty fraud in social networks in order to discredit S.Kurtz and remove his electorate. Nass media spread information about racism, anti-Semitism and "a sack full of lies." On the voting day the SDPA paid for this "disgusting pre-election maneuver" more than 500 thousand euros.

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