Austria’s Next Vice-Chancellor | Coalition Carousel Part II

Red, blue, green and pink: Each party has its color, each its own leader. Here, the first two of four mini portraits.

On Monday October 7, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen gave ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz the mandate to form a government. But so far, he hasn’t let anyone see what’s on his mind. Clearly, no option is perfect. SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner and Kurz are less than best friends; the Greens’ election program overlaps only by some 20% with the Turquois; the NEOS’ 8% isn’t enough by itself to deliver a coalition majority; and the FPÖ seems uninterested in any further cooperation, absorbed as it is with internal party disputes. Still, eventually, Kurz will have to choose, if he doesn’t want a minority government. Let’s look at the coalition options:

Werner Kogler | The Founder

Werner Kogler was there from the very beginning. In 1981, the then-20-year-old committed himself to the founding of the so-called “Alternative Liste Österreich,” a project that would later join forces with the “United Greens of Austria” to found the party known today as “The Greens”.

Most of Kogler’s work initially centered around his home province of Styria: Between 1981 and 1988 Kogler was a board member of the “Alternative List Graz”. In 1985, he entered the Graz municipal council for the Greens, where he worked until 1988. A board member of the Styrian Greens since 1999, in November 2005 he was elected to be their national spokesman.

In 2008, he assumed the function of deputy Green club chairman in parliament. One year later, he was elected as the second deputy of Federal Spokeswoman Eva Glawischnig. In September 2010, the Styrian Greens elected him as the new top candidate for the state parliamentary elections. After the national elections in 2017, in which the Greens failed to pass the 4% hurdle, Kogler dropped out of parliament.

After two successive resignations by federal party chairwomen, Kogler became the official federal spokesman – and was credited with holding the Greens together until the next parliamentary election.

The Greens and the ÖVP could hardly be further apart from each other in terms of their political programs – but Kogler told interviewers on ZIB 2 that his image of the ÖVP had recently improved. So it seems for the time being, the governing coalition remains on the table.

Fun fact: Kogler holds the record for the longest-ever National Assembly filibuster, which began on December 16, 2010 at 13:18 and lasted for 12 hours and 42 minutes (and was intended to protest passage of a budget). It ended at exactly 2:00 in the morning with the words, “That’s actually all I wanted to say.”

Beate Meinl-Resinger | The Energetic One

Beate Reisinger studied law at the University of Vienna and later obtained a master’s degree in European Studies. She spent time in the EU Commission, at the Wirtschaftskammer (Chamber of Economics) and as an assistant to Othmar Karas, who was head of the ÖVP delegation in the European Parliament.

In 2012, she turned her back on the ÖVP to work with Matthias Strolz at the NEOS. As third on the party list, she joined the National Council in 2013. (city council group).

In 2018, Matthias Strolz quite unexpectedly left the party and political life. He had been the founder, driving force and long-time mentor to Meinl-Reisinger, but she smoothly took over leadership of the parliamentary club entered as top candidate in the most recent National Assembly election.

Leadership was not originally on the cards. Meinl-Reisinger once said in an interview with Madonna that she preferred the background. But since so few women have signed up for higher office, she decided to take the reins herself – and the mother of three is known for being always upbeat, tireless and never at a loss for words. For the first time in 2019, the NEOS gathered over 8% of the vote.

Because of the ÖVP and Greens’ strong showing, the NEOs will not be needed to form a governing majority – though some pundits speculate that the socially left, economically liberal party might still be just the glue needed to make that coalition work.

Julia Seidl
Julia started out at "Die Presse." She went on to study "Journalism & Media Management" in Vienna and worked for several local news outlets such as ORF, Kurier and Falter before joining Metropole as online content and social media manager.

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