Austria: Difficult times: New ÖVP boss is struggling for confidence

The ÖVP, spoiled by power, is in crisis. Now Chancellor Nehammer, as the new party leader, is supposed to give the conservatives a “courage injection”. Predecessor Kurz also made an appearance at the party conference.

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer is to be elected the new chairman of the conservative ÖVP at an extraordinary federal party conference on Saturday. The 49-year-old is the only candidate. His predecessor Sebastian Kurz received around 99 percent approval in August 2021.

The ÖVP is now in a difficult position. Investigations are underway against various ÖVP top politicians on suspicion of corruption, the polls of the party, spoiled by power, have fallen sharply, and a few days before the party meeting, Nehammer had to reshuffle the cabinet after the resignation of two ministers. Nehammer wanted to give the party a “courage injection”, it was said recently from his environment.

Putin’s visit made international headlines

“It’s also about working back the trust that has been lost to some extent,” said the Chancellor of the “Kleine Zeitung”. About 600 delegates are entitled to vote among the more than 1,000 guests at the party congress in Graz.

Political experts are convinced that Nehammer can count on a good election result, since any other voting behavior in this situation would cause additional difficulties for the party and its leader. Nehammer was also in the international headlines recently because of his surprise visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting went without a concrete result.

The appearance of ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz should be one of the special moments of the party congress, which is planned to last almost four hours. The 35-year-old, who not only resigned in 2021 but finally left politics altogether, will be interviewed on stage. A speech was not planned, it said.

Kurz says goodbye to politics

It is expected that Kurz will once again remember joint successes and, above all, thank the party and companions. He had stressed in advance that his departure from politics was final. Kurz now works as a “Global Strategist” for US investor and billionaire Peter Thiel, who is close to former US President Donald Trump.

The opposition has recently used the quarrels surrounding the ÖVP to call for new elections. The alliance of the ÖVP and the Greens, which has governed since the beginning of 2020, is currently considered stable. Given their poll numbers, which are well below the result of the 2019 National Council elections, the two governing parties are unlikely to be interested in a nationwide election. The coalition climate is considered improved under Nehammer compared to Kurz’s time.

Source: Stern

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