Both major parties gained votes: the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) won an absolute majority of the seats receiving 49.94% of the popular vote, up 8.2%, while the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) came in second with 31%, 1,5% more than in the previous election. Meanwhile, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) lost two seats, receiving under 10% of the vote.
Did the SPÖ discover a new formula for success?
The win for the SPÖ came despite its lack of decisive positioning on the national level. Since 2015, the party has internally struggled with its stance on migration policy, remaining cautiously ambiguous. In the last year, the SPÖ lost votes in every election last year, except Vorarlberg, where it gained less than one percent. Now, state party leader Doskozil’s positions are seen as a possible winning formula for the SPÖ: right-leaning migration policy, leftist social policy and a pragmatic take on economic issues.
Former Defense Minister and Burgenland police chief, Doskozil adopted a restrictive stance on migration in the wake of the 2015 refugee crisis, criticizing German chancellor Angela Merkel’s open border policy. Since then, he has made a point of remaining consistent in his migration policy.
Youth, environment and healthcare
However, it was not migration alone that swayed this election. Analysis by Austrian research institute SORA concluded that such topics as “opportunity for young adults”, “environmental protection”, and “healthcare” are increasingly taking center stage. The election also proved to be character driven, as 37% of SPÖ supporters admitted to voting for the party solely because Doskozil was heading the ticket.
Many saw Doskozil’s triumph in Burgenland as a possible segue into national politics. Doskozil himself called the win “a sign of life” for the SPÖ: “This momentum is something special,” he said, “even if it was only in the small state of Burgenland.“