Meanwhile, in liberal Europe… October’s election results…

Whilst British politics is dominated by Brexit, elsewhere in Europe, life goes on. And yes, the question of “what Europe?” is playing a key role in the changing scene, but it is not the only issue.

Earlier in the month, the Austrian Parliamentary elections saw the triumph of the shiny new leader of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), Alexander Kurz, aged just thirty-one. Talk of a coalition with the far right Freedom Party (FPÖ), led by Heinz-Christian Strache, was somewhat curtailed when, once all the votes were counted, the Social Democrats (SPÖ) limped into second place by less than 1%. Putting it into context, no other party has finished above either the ÖVP or the SPÖ in Austria since the restoration of democracy in 1949.

There are three credible governing coalitions, as the Social Democrats have not ruled out a coalition with the Freedom Party, unlikely a pairing as it might be.

Meanwhile, our sister party, The New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS), had a pleasingly decent result, regaining the seat lost to defection and gaining another to end up with ten seats in the 183-seat Nationalrat.

The biggest shock, perhaps, was the fate of the Greens, whose vote collapsed by more than two-thirds from 12.4% to 3.8%, below the threshold for representation. Combined with the demise of the populist Team Stronach, led by an Austro-Canadian businessman, this meant that NEOS went from being the sixth largest party to fourth. Unlike some Central European liberal parties, NEOS are avowedly pro-Europe, having campaigned in 2014 with the slogan “We love Europe”.

Last weekend saw parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic and again, it was a disappointing night for the Social Democrats who, having been the senior partner in a ruling coalition, saw their vote collapse from 20.5% to just 7.3%. The big winners were ALDE member party, ANO 2011, with their billionaire leader, Andrej Babiš, who increased their share of the vote from 18.7% to 29.6%, far and away the biggest party in the new Parliament, holding 78 of the 200 seats.

What happens next is unclear. Babiš has been accused both of corruption and of being a former communist agent, and whilst the electorate seem not to have been swayed by the charges, a number of potential coalition partners have made it clear that he is an obstacle to forming a viable administration.

Possible coalition partners include the Pirate Party, who went from nowhere to holding twenty-two seats, and, politically at least, look like a reasonable fit, the Civic Democrats, a centre-right group, the Mayors and Independents (STAN) and the Social Democrats. It may take a little while to form a viable coalition, given the circumstances but, in all likelihood, the Czech Republic will provide the European Union with its eighth Liberal Prime Minister, second only to the European People’s Party, who have nine.

That matters because it is the members of the Council of Ministers, in conjunction with the European Parliament, who will determine whether an agreement can be reached with the United Kingdom over Brexit. It turns out that Vince Cable has more friends there than either Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn…

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11 Comments

  • Lawrence Fullick 30th Oct '17 - 5:22pm

    I have reservations about ANO. I would like clarification from people who follow the Czech Republic. Pro Europeans in the country certainly had reservations about ex President Klaus.

  • The FPO finished second in 1999.

  • Nom de Plume 30th Oct '17 - 7:42pm

    I don’t know what to make of Babiš and ANO. They sit with the ALDE group in the European Parliament. I have not heard him or any of their MPs say anything that is inconsistent with membership of a liberal group. They do not want to leave the EU or NATO. Perhaps sceptical about the Euro. They are not a populist party like Okamura’s SPD. Yet, Babiš is a wealthy businessman who owns newspapers and at least one radio station. Then again, the media group he bought was making a loss. Now it is not. Then again, there are questions over some of his previous business dealings (čapí hnízdo). Mainly, I am not entirely sure about what he is trying to achieve. The presentation is very professional, inscrutable. I think the other parties fear him – he is struggling to form a government.

  • Red Liberal 31st Oct '17 - 3:01pm

    I don’t ‘get’ how the LibDems, a centre-left party, ended up with sister parties across Europe mostly on the centre-right (or even further right) like ANO2011 and NEOS…

  • Simon Banks 31st Oct '17 - 3:59pm

    The Pirate Party? In the Czech Republic? Where do they sail?

  • Lawrence Fullick 31st Oct '17 - 4:34pm

    I just found a badge I was given in Prague:
    Vaclav Klaus’s face in place of the eagle’s head manacled to a hammer and sickle.
    Slogan reads “Neni Mujn Prezident” – Not my president, i believe

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Nov '17 - 11:01pm

    @Mark,

    “The constitution of European democracy” might be worth looking at for arguments about how we can improve European democracy. See: https://idw-online.de/de/event58739

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