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EU election: Lopatka faces defeat

EU election: Lopatka faces defeat
Reinhold Lopatka (ÖVP)

After many years of pulling strings in the background, the former parliamentary group chairman, general secretary and state secretary tried hard to ward off the predicted collapse of his ÖVP in the EU elections. He did not succeed, but this was probably due less to the top candidate than to the general mood towards the People’s Party.

It was telling when party leader Karl Nehammer thanked Lopatka after his appointment, “for putting yourself through this”. There was actually nothing to gain. The ÖVP is starting from a record result, the government’s work is considered unpopular and it feels like the People’s Party has been on the defensive ever since Sebastian Kurz’s involuntary departure.

  • also read: Trend forecast for the EU elections: FPÖ takes first place

The current leadership knew that they would need a dazzling personality to head the campaign. The problem: nobody wanted one. So Lopatka came into the picture, someone who was trusted to do anything in terms of expertise, but who had acquired the image of a schemer rather than a cheerful man over the decades.

Mildness of old age

Some people found the leading candidate a little mellow with age in this campaign. There was little evidence of the “dirty campaigning” that he was constantly accused of during his time as general secretary. Lopatka played the pro-European conservative who wants to fight climate change with combustion engines. Apart from a few jabs at the character of Green Party frontwoman Lena Schilling, he stuck to the attacks against the Freedom Party that have become routine in the ÖVP, with whom he does not want to form a coalition even without Herbert Kickl, contrary to the federal party’s line.

Not everyone believes the East Styrian. Lopatka, although he was part of the liberal wing of the ÖVP as a spokesman for the peace movement in his youth, has long been considered a link to the FPÖ. He was already the general secretary under Wolfgang Schüssel in the black-blue and orange coalitions. The fact that he later led the grand coalition as the black parliamentary group chairman is one of the many proofs of his political flexibility.

Entered the state parliament in his mid-20s

Even though Lopatka has now been allowed to take the lead and has found a new field of activity in the European Parliament, the lawyer and theologian’s great times are already a quarter of a century ago. Lopatka, who was already in the state parliament in his mid-20s, achieved his first masterpiece in the Styrian state elections in 2000, when he managed the People’s Party to an eleven percent increase.

Wolfgang Schüssel brought Lopatka to Vienna as Secretary General, where he led the ÖVP to the top of the electorate for the first time in decades with a vigorous anti-Gusenbauer campaign. The wave of success broke in the 2006 election, the People’s Party had to join the grand coalition as a junior partner and Lopatka was left with only a state secretary, initially for sport, later – with renewed importance – for finance.

State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry

After a one-and-a-half year break from the parliamentary bench, he returned to the cabinet as State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry. At the end of 2013, he became parliamentary group leader of the People’s Party and navigated its parliamentary group through a difficult, because unpopular, grand coalition.

During this phase, Lopatka cemented his reputation as a schemer, winning over several members of Team Stronach with the pleasant side effect of suddenly having a black-blue threat in his hands. He maneuvered the top of the Court of Auditors for his closer compatriot Margit Kraker and finally played a leading role in the dismantling of Reinhold Mitterlehner, which had the goal and result of enthroning Sebastian Kurz.

Since then, Lopatka has been primarily a European politician and is therefore a good fit for Brussels and Strasbourg. However, it would be bold to predict that these will be the 64-year-old’s political final destination.

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Source: Nachrichten

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