A quick-and-dirty synopsis of last month’s headlines in Vienna

Coalition Talks Proceed, Parliament Assembles

Sebastian Kurz, leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), has invited the Freedom Party (FPÖ) to coalition talks following his victory at the national election on October 15. The Social Democrats, of outgoing chancellor Christian Kern, vowed to go into opposition after a short meeting of party elders yielded no results. President Van der Bellen entrusted Kurz with the task of forming a government on October 20, a mandate that is traditionally granted to the strongest party. The ÖVP reached 31.5%, with the SPÖ finishing at 26.9%, the FPÖ with 26%, the liberal party NEOS nabbed 5.3% and Liste Pilz scraping in at 4.4%. The Green Party failed to make it into parliament, missing the 4% hurdle with only 3.8%.

As the Austrian republic is a proportional democracy, a majority in parliament is needed before a new government can be formed. President Alexander Van der Bellen has made it clear that he will only accept a government with a broadly pro-European outlook. The newly elected lower house assembled for their first session on November 9.

Need to know

Conservative party leader Sebastian Kurz is trying to forge a center-right coalition that will make him chancellor, with ministerial positions and policies on the table during coalition talks.

What others said

“We are Austrian patriots and fervent Europeans.” – Heinz-Christian Strache, chairman of the FPÖ, attempting to pivot his party to a more pro-European stance.

Domino’s Pizza Comes to Vienna

Good news for all fans of American pizza bravado. The Domino’s Pizza franchise recently opened a restaurant in Vienna’s 21st district, the first in Austria out of more than 10,000 branches worldwide. More branches could soon follow. The operating company Daufood GmbH would like to expand to as many as 40 locations within the country, while also contemplating crossing the border to Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary. According to Daufood GmbH, Domino’s big selling point in Austria is their short delivery time, with orders generally reaching your doorstep within 30 minutes. To accomplish this, pizzas are primarily dispatched via e-bikes.

This is not the first time the franchise has chosen unusual transportation methods. Domino’s in New Zealand has employed drones, while Domino’s in Hamburg leaves delivery to special robots.

Need to know

The American pizza chain Domino’s has opened a branch in Vienna. Whether it will fare better than the unsuccessful attempts by Pizza Hut to expand in Austria in the early 2000s remains to be seen.

What others said

“This looks like something Christian Kern would like.” – comment on the webpage of Austrian daily Die Presse referencing the chancellor’s and SPÖ chief’s
PR stunt as a pizza delivery man during the election campaign.

Peter Pilz Steps Down Following Sexual Harassment Allegations

Raising awareness for and denouncing sexual harassment, the #MeToo debate reached Austria in November with full force. Just mere weeks after the list of erstwhile Green MP and anti-corruption crusader Peter Pilz made it into parliament with 4.4%, the party’s founder was called out by accusations of sexual misconduct.

An employee of the People’s Party spoke out, stating that Pilz groped and harassed her at the European Forum Alpbach in 2013. Pilz only stopped after two men pulled him away. Two witnesses confirmed the allegations. Former coworkers of Pilz in the Green party also came forward with reports of misconduct, putting the politician under further pressure. Following a few days of dithering, Pilz officially stepped down, announcing he will not serve as MP or party leader. However, he also stated that he plans to return to politics after a hiatus of undefined length and will continue to support his party from the sidelines.

Need to know

The #MeToo campaign has sparked furious debates in Austria too, with a controversial Facebook post by Austrian actress Nina Proll, heated TV discussions and the resignation of Peter Pilz being major talking points.

What others said

“It’s also a signal to my fellow men in similar positions: Let’s learn something from that. We can do better. And if I didn’t do a good job, I’m paying my own personal political price for it now. And then others will do better.”
– Peter Pilz, apologizing for his conduct (Facebook, Nov 7).

It’s Ball Season Again!

Ready to hit the dance floor? Vienna will host over 450 balls in 2018. More than 500,000 visitors are expected to dress up and spend an average of €275 reveling for some 2,000 hours in the beautiful palaces of the city. January and February are the main season, reaching its climax with the prestigious Opernball (Vienna Opera Ball) on Feb 2. Ball season includes the sweet Zuckerbäckerball (Confectioners’ Ball) on January 11, where the hosts bake 3,000 cakes as gifts, the Blumenball (Flower Ball) on January 19 that decorates the Rathaus with 100,000 flowers and the Kaffeesiederball (Ball of the Viennese Coffee Brewers) on January 18, with more than 6,000 visitors each year. The rather juicy tickets (€72-€150) let you waltz under chandeliers, take part in the midnight quadrille and shake in the disco room. Got two left feet? Check out our story “How To Go Dancing in Vienna”.

Need to know

Carnival season is ball season, although there are highlights the year round, like the Life Ball on June 2.

What others said

“Alles Walzer!” (Every- body waltz!) – traditional opening words at the Opernball by Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer.