In the elections to the 36-seat regional assembly (Landtag) of Salzburg in Austria held on Sunday, April 23, the coalition led by the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ) registered a significant victory by winning four seats and 11.7% of the total votes polled. The KPÖ+ list in Salzburg is led by Kay-Michael Dankl.
It is the first time since 1949 that KPÖ has won representation in the Salzburg Landtag. According to Perspective Communiste, in the city of Salzburg, KPÖ emerged as the second largest party, securing 21.8% of the votes.
Meanwhile, the incumbent Christian Democrat-Green-Liberal coalition faced a setback in the elections, as the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Greens were confined to 12 and three seats, respectively, while the New Austria and Liberal Forum (NEOS) drew a blank.
The Socialist Party of Austria (SPÖ) won seven seats and the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) saw a rise in popularity, securing 10 seats. As the incumbent coalition has lost the majority, all eyes are now set on the ÖVP leadership—whether they approach the SPÖ, or the FPÖ to form a new coalition.
The elections saw a high voter turnout of 70.94% (5.98%+), believed to be a major indicator of the public mood against the federal government led by the ÖVP-Green coalition prior to the general elections scheduled for next year.
Elections in Salzburg were held against the backdrop of continuing inflation and a housing crisis. According to reports, the average inflation in Austria is 10.43%, while residential rent inflation had increased to 6.4% in February 2023. Communists and other working class sections had campaigned and protested against the regional and federal governments’ inefficiency in tackling the crises.
Austria has also been affected by the cost of living crisis brought on by the ongoing war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russian oil imposed by the European Union (EU). Austria has refused to provide any significant military assistance to Ukraine, unlike other EU countries, but has provided humanitarian support and also offered assistance in de-mining the conflict zones in Ukraine
KPÖ on the rise
In the local elections held in the country in September 2021, the KPÖ had emerged as the largest party in the city council of Graz, the second largest city in the country and capital of the Austrian State of Styria. It secured 28.9% of the votes and 15 seats. KPÖ’s Elke Kahr was elected as the first woman mayor of Graz and became the first communist to head a regional capital in Austria. KPÖ also won a majority in seven of 17 district councils in Graz, increasing their number of elected representatives in the country to 52 seats, compared to 35 in 2017.
Earlier, in the elections to the Styrian State assembly in November 2019, the list led by KPÖ had won 6.02% of the total votes and three seats. The KPÖ+ coalition was formed in 2017 in combination with the Young Greens, and now has various other leftist groups including the Young Left.
With the latest victory in Salzburg, Austria communists are in an upbeat mood and hope to make an entry into the Austrian National Council after the parliamentary elections next year.
Following the declaration of the results, the Salzburg Committee of KPÖ+ stated on Sunday, “Today’s election result is a strong indication that people want a different and honest policy again. A policy that finally addresses the extremely expensive housing costs and exploding energy prices. A policy that prevents many people from having too little to live despite working. A policy that will ensure that no child grows up in poverty. The election result is therefore also a warning shot to the established parties: instead of hiding behind courage and excuses, they have to seriously deal with the problems and challenges.”
“Today we are happy—and tomorrow the next, bigger challenge begins. There are no political majorities yet for a policy that is truly committed to affordable rents, good care, and a sound education system. To produce these majorities will be our work for the coming years. Therefore, there is no need for complacency or to rest now, because these are real issues that make life difficult for people day by day.”