As promised in my last post, I now want to focus on the Greens.
As with the centre right party, their program is over 70 pages long, so I won’t read through it all. I want to make you aware of something though: The extreme right-wing party has a program 17 pages in length, the left wing party (SPÖ) has one 31 pages long, the centre right 68 pages and the Greens is 88 pages long. Now obviously the quantity of the program says nothing about the quality, but a lack of quantity… hm, maybe.
I’ve also decided to drop the extreme-left parties, instead I’ll talk about recent trends in politics, new parties and some tools. After that, as I’ve already explained, I want to start a big discussion about “the ideal party”.
Anyway, the Greens…
In general, the Greens parties will be moderately to extremely left-leaning and have “the environment” as their main agenda. Sometimes they’ll have some social issues on their agenda (LGBT-rights, women’s rights, etc.) and sometimes some lefty political/anti-state issues, but in general they’re a very specialized party and won’t attract a wide range of clientèle. As a result, it’s seldom you’ll see them top the 10% margin. Indeed, most green-parties have managed only a single 10%+ result.
In Austria specifically, there was one excellent Greens-chairman, Alexander Van der Bellen. This is irrelevant, but there’s a nice little story to it. In 2008, his party lost votes for the first time, going from 11.05% to 10.43%. Then from one day to the next, he suddenly said “duck it all” and left. The party has been in disarray since, but interestingly they’ll probably get a huge boost in 2013.
Now that in itself is rather interesting, I think. In the last ten years (you always vote every five years in Austria) the leading parties (ÖVP/SPÖ) have fucked up so badly, that Austrians sought an alternative. At first, in 2008, that alternative was the BZÖ/FPÖ, the two extreme right wing parties. (Gain 13% total, 6.5% each) Now, in 2013, there is one new party, Team Stronach (TS), and the Greens, who are the winners. TS won on average 8%, in some cases even 10%, while the Greens nearly doubled their votes in some states, but definitely grew quite drastically.
The reason for TS’s and the Greens’ gain can be attributed to them not being involved in the scandals, the huge loss of BZÖ/FPÖ to… well, nothing new, I guess. Who wants to hear “immigrants are shit” every day of the week?
Now in Austria, you get to vote for your state (we have 9 states) and then again country-wide. There were four state-votes this year:
Salzburg was a tremendous win for the greens, going from 12% to 20%. That’s the largest they’ve ever been in a state. ÖVP/SPÖ lost a huge deal 7.5%/15% respectively and both TS (8%) and FPÖ (4%) made gains.
In Carinthia, the FPK (the FPÖ of Carinthia) went from being the strongest party (44.89%) to being the second strongest (16.85%), a whopping loss of 28.04%. The SPÖ picked up (+8% to 37%) and the Greens more than doubled. (+7% to 12%)
This changes the political landscape quite a bit! The Greens will achieve anything between 16% and 20% in the upcoming elections (huge boost, a potential double), the SPÖ will lose very slightly (1-2% to 27%), the ÖVP will remain roughly the same (25%) and TS will achieve about 8-10%. The huge uncertainty-factor will be the FPÖ. Having lost so much in Carinthia (~100.000 votes) and gained very little in the other states (~10.000 votes), they’re still predicted to make a net gain for the nation-wide votes (total of 17-19%). That’s because the votes are generally quite different, people lean more to the left in state elections but are very right-wing in nation-wide elections.
In any case, the Greens… Seriously now…
When reading the party’s program, I noticed that it is… wishy-washy. I’m not saying that their program is bad, I hope I’ve been fair enough to be rather neutral. (Mostly because I think all party-programs up until now were shit, but that’s a different story.) The problem is that the language is so passive, so neutral… For example:
A solid community of free people in an intact environment – that is our vision. This vision doesn’t describe an end-point, but rather an open future, which we want to form with our values, principals and our politics.
Now call me a cynic, but when I read that the first time I imagined hippies dancing to oriental music, throwing flowers through the air. The rest of the program goes on in the same tone. Anyway, I’ll try to pick out their main points and explain their ideology that way.
As stated in the opening paragraphs, the Greens have a moderate to strong “left” tendency. This is reflected in their roots:
Die historischen Wurzeln der Grünen liegen in den neuen sozialen Bewegungen: der StudentInnenbewegung, der Frauen-, Umwelt- und Friedensbewegung, in Bürgerrechtsbewegungen und BürgerInneninitiativen, den kritischen ChristInnen, WissenschafterInnen und GewerkschafterInnen, der entwicklungspolitischen Solidaritätsbewegung und den Bewegungen alter und neuer, sozialer oder kultureller “Minderheiten”.
In short: The Austrian Greens developed out of feminist, peace- and environment-movements as well as citizens’ actions committees and other grass-root organisations.
This multi-faceted history is reflected today: They are in favour of multi-cultural societies, a multi-national approach to problem-solving and, as already stated, an ecologically stable society.
However/additionally, they are also clearly opposed to labelling, as that would only add to existing divisions.
As also explained, they are more socialist than conservative, which shows in the following:
Alle Versuche, Solidarität auf einen engen Kreis von NutznießerInnen zu beschränken, haben in Sackgassen geführt.
Every attempt to limit the gains of society (or to limit solidarity) to one group of beneficiaries has always resulted in a dead end.
This is a clearly socialist approach to society and economics. Interestingly, the Greens in Austria tend to form coalitions with conservative parties about as often as with socialist parties. This may be due to the above discussed problem the Greens have: They’re usually very small. (In the US, they have yet to gain more than 2.74%!)
The next bit might surprise you a bit:
Grüne Politik folgt Utopien.
Green politics follows (is) Utopia.
I have purposefully included the (is), you will hopefully forgive me for inserting judgement here. Green politics IS Utopia. One of the main criticisms levelled against the Green parties I know of is that they’re out of touch with reality. Their ideas are sometimes excellent, but they’ll not be able to deliver what they want, simply because there are political limits.
The do claim to be realistic about their goals, but that’s not true at all.
Allow me to talk about that a bit…
It’s always nice to have ideals, after all you want to have a clear goal. But that goal should always be reachable, by taking one step at a time.
For example, you might want to reform the US school system. That will almost certainly be a Herculean effort, requiring a huge amount of money being spent, huge reforms in teacher education, school architecture, school policy, the curriculum and state education policy, but also a radical shift in the public’s perception of education and schooling.
By changing one thing at a time, you avoid complete failure should one thing collapse, you avoid public resistance and you avoid over-expending your resources. And yet, that’s what Green policy often argues: Seeing the goal and making one huge jump toward it.
Al right, rant over.
The third pillar of the Austrian Greens is “Grassroots Democracy”. Basically, organizations should not dominate the decision-making process, people affected by the change should. This tendency is now fairly common in many left parties.
And that, in a nutshell, is the Austrian Green party. I suspect that they will enter the coalition in the upcoming elections, simply because ÖVP + SPÖ may not be enough any more. The predicted 27% (SPÖ) and 25% (ÖVP) may change slightly, causing the two parties combined to dip below 50%. That depends largely on voters turn-out (generally more extreme parties can motivate their voters, so we might see a slight dip in SPÖ/ÖVP voters) and any scandals occurring before the vote. If that should happen, the two parties have only two viable options for a coalition:
1) Form a coalition with the Greens. This will guarantee a more than large enough majority, but it will create internal disputes. (Nearly every coalition faces this problem.)
2) Form a coalition with a small, upcoming party. Possible candidates may include the Pirates (doubtful) and the NEOS (liberal party, possible though not likely) to pass the 4% barrier. (Note: Any party not attaining 4% in the elections will not enter parliament, so they will not have a say. This prevents hundreds of 0.1% parties forming a majority in parliament.)
Any other coalition (+FPÖ, +TS, +BZÖ) will undoubtedly result in huge losses for the two parties in any future elections.
Stay tuned for the next post on the SPÖ, due to appear in about 20 days or so. I know this is currently quite boring, but we need some foundations to get to the juicy bits.