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- 27 03 2001 - 10:15 - katatonik

senior politics

vienna had an election last sunday, in which the freedom party lost immensely while the social democratic party regained its absolute majority (in seats in the city council, not in votes – ask the obscure vienna election statute how this is possible) and the green party also gained significantly. the election followed after a campaign that was generally perceived as unexciting and uneventful, except for the participation of the “simple party member” joerg haider in the final rounds. in a beer-tent, haider made jokes about ariel muzicant, president of the jewish cultural community in vienna, saying he could not believe how someone named “ariel” (in German: brand-name of a detergent) could have so much dirt up his sleeves. together with remarks about a social democrats’ election advisor’s name being “greenberg” and the resultant association with the “american east coast”, this caused great uproar – some detected antisemitism, others detected conscious play with antisemitic codes, still others denounced political correctness, and so on. now that the freedom party has lost the election …
... its winners are eager to emphasize that antisemitism and play with its codes has no place in vienna. but could it not be that this particular facet of political propaganda was largely irrelevant for the results? so far, only christoph hofinger, head of the “institute for social research and analysis”, pointed at a quite different source for the huge social democratic victory: about one third of the voters were older than 60. vienna’s senior citizens are traditionally known to vote for social democrats, and it is here that the social democrats had lost out to the freedom party in the last few elections. with the current austrian government coalition implementing a rigid financial policy that is generally perceived to threaten the socially weak, it seems that vienna’s senior citizens have returned to their former political home. what strikes me as strange is that this particular explanation has remained practically unmentioned in media coverage (with the above exception) that generally focuses on mr.h. from carinthia. strange, but not surprising: stares at the carinthian snake have paralyzed austrian politics for a long time, and denouncing mr.h. as an antisemit and his party as racist makes for quicker political image gains than addressing those social issues that moved vienna’s seniors – and that will move us, if we happen to turn into such.

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