Austrian legislative election, 2008

Austrian legislative election, 2008

Infobox Election
election_name = Austrian legislative election, 2008
country = Austria
type = parliamentary
ongoing = no
previous_election = Austrian legislative election, 2006
previous_year = 2006
previous_MPs =
next_election =
next_year =
seats_for_election = 183 seats in the National Council of Austria
election_date = 28 September 2008

leader1 = Werner Faymann
leader_since1 = 2008
party1 = Social Democratic Party of Austria
leaders_seat1 = 9 Vienna
last_election1 = 68 seats, 35.34%
seats1 = 57
seat_change1 = –11
popular_vote1 = 1,430,202
percentage1 = 29.26%
swing1 = −6.08%

leader2 = Wilhelm Molterer
leader_since2 = 2007
party2 = Austrian People's Party
leaders_seat2 = 4D Traunviertel
last_election2 = 66 seats, 34.33%
seats2 = 51
seat_change2 = –15
popular_vote2 = 1,235,116
percentage2 = 25.98%
swing2 = −8.35%

leader3 = Heinz-Christian Strache
leader_since3 = 2005
party3 = Freedom Party of Austria
leaders_seat3 = 9D Vienna South
last_election3 = 21 seats, 11.04%
seats3 = 34
seat_change3 = +13
popular_vote3 = 857,028
percentage3 = 17.54%
swing3 = +6.50%

leader4 = Jörg Haider
leader_since4 = 2008
party4 = Alliance for the Future of Austria
leaders_seat4 = 2A Klagenfurt
last_election4 = 7 seats, 4.11%
seats4 = 21
seat_change4 = +14
popular_vote4 = 522,933
percentage4 = 10.70%
swing4 = +6.59%

leader5 = Alexander Van der Bellen
leader_since5 = 1997
party5 = The Greens – The Green Alternative
leaders_seat5 = 9F Vienna North-West
last_election5 = 21 seats, 11.05%
seats5 = 20
seat_change5 = –1
popular_vote5 = 509,937
percentage5 = 10.43%
swing5 = −0.62%

leader6 = Heide Schmidt
leader_since6 = 2008
party6 = Liberal Forum
leaders_seat6 = 9F Vienna North-West
last_election6 = did not contest on their own
seats6 = 0
seat_change6 = ±0
popular_vote6 = 102,249
percentage6 = 2.09%
swing6 = +2.09%


map_size =
map_caption =

title = Chancellor
before_election = Alfred Gusenbauer
before_party = Social Democratic Party of Austria
after_election =
after_party =

A legislative snap election for the National Council in Austria was held on 28 September 2008. [] The previous election was held on 1 October 2006. The election (the 24th in Austrian history) was caused by the withdrawal of Austrian People's Party leader Wilhelm Molterer from the governing grand coalition (led by the Social Democratic Party of Austria) on 7 July 2008. [] Due to dissatisfaction with the grand coalition and the two main parties, it was widely expected to be a realigning election, with gains for the opposition and up to seven parties expected to be in the National Council after the election. [] [] [] [] The losses for the government parties (both the SPÖ and the ÖVP had the worst election result in history) resulted in strong gains for the far right, while neither the Liberal Forum nor the Citizens' Forum Austria (both of which were considered to have chances of gaining seats) gained as much as 2% of the vote, defying earlier expectations. The result of the election was characterised a strong surge for the far right and as a support of anti-EU rhetoric. []

Molterer resigned as party chairman as a result of the losses suffered by the ÖVP and was replaced by environment minister Josef Pröll; the Greens' federal spokesman Alexander Van der Bellen (in office since 1997) also resigned and was replaced by his deputy, Eva Glawischnig. Due to the LIF's failure to enter parliament on its own, LIF founder Heide Schmidt and financier Hans-Peter Haselsteiner both declared their complete withdrawal from politics, and the LIF's fate was seen as uncertain. Shortly after the election, BZÖ leader and Carinthian governor Jörg Haider died in a car accident.



By state


Werner Faymann (SPÖ)
Wilhelm Molterer (ÖVP)
Alexander Van der Bellen (Greens)
Heinz-Christian Strache (FPÖ)
Jörg Haider (BZÖ)
Heide Schmidt (LIF)
Fritz Dinkhauser (FRITZ)
Mirko Messner and Melina Klaus (KPÖ)
Wilfried Auerbach (RETTÖ)
Alfons Adam (DC)
Sonja Grusch (LINKE)

On 11 January 2007, the Gusenbauer cabinet (a grand coalition of SPÖ and ÖVP) was sworn into office. The newly formed government was criticised from the beginning from parts of the opposition and left-wing circles in the SPÖ for having failed to push through in the coalition negotiations most of the pledges and promises made in the election campaign.

The SPÖ began to fall back in the polls almost immediately. The government was frequently unable to agree on important decisions: The SPÖ demanded an antedated tax reform in 2009 instead of in 2010, which the ÖVP disagreed on; [] the proposal to help households hit by inflation with a tax gift of €100 was also denied by the ÖVP. [] The coalition partners also disagreed on the badly necessary health system reform. [] In the Tyrolean state election on 8 June 2008 the former ÖVP member Fritz Dinkhauser led his newly founded Citizens' Forum Tyrol to become the second-largest party, causing large losses to ÖVP and SPÖ and small losses to the Greens. Following this, internal criticism within the SPÖ of Gusenbauer grew, leading to the decision to designate infrastructure minister Werner Faymann as its new party leader. According to the plans at that time, Gusenbauer would have remained the leading candidate in the 2010 elections. []

On 26 June 2008, Faymann and Gusenbauer wrote a letter to the editor of the leading Austrian tabloid "Kronen Zeitung", declaring they were in favour of referendums on important EU topics, like new treaties after the already ratified Treaty of Lisbon or the accession of Turkey to the European Union. They did this without seeking the approval of either the party leadership or their coalition partner ÖVP; it was widely perceived by Austrian and foreign media as a populist action and submission to the anti-European "Kronen Zeitung", which had been conducting anti-EU campaigns for years. [] On 7 July 2008, ÖVP leader Wilhelm Molterer declared that he could not continue to work with the SPÖ (the precise words with which he opened the news conference were "That's enough!", "Es reicht!"). The ÖVP declared as the main reasons for the snap elections the change in the SPÖ's position on Europe and the planned dual leadership in the SPÖ, which the ÖVP claimed would make agreement on difficult issues even harder.

The snap election was officially called in a parliamentary session on 9 July 2008 through a joint resolution by SPÖ, ÖVP and Greens, which FPÖ and BZÖ supported; [] the election date of 28 September 2008 was confirmed by the government and the main committee on 10 July 2008. [] The term of the legislature was the third-shortest in Austrian history (after 1970–1971 and 1994–1995). SPÖ and ÖVP agreed to a so-called "Stillhalteabkommen", an agreement according to which neither of the two parties would try to outvote the other with the votes of the opposition parties, although this agreement was revoked by Faymann on 25 August 2008. []

The age required to have the right to vote had been reduced from 18 to 16 prior to the election in an electoral law reform enacted in 2007, which also had reduced the age required to stand in the election from 19 to 18, had introduced easier access to postal balloting and had lengthened the legislative term from four to five years. [] Another change was that different list names in the different states were no longer possible; the BZÖ had stood under a different name in Carinthia than in the rest of Austria in 2006. [] Turnout was initially expected to increase from the all-time low of 78.5% in 2006; more than 80% were expected to participate in the election according to early estimates, [] but it expectations changed to a decrease of turnout as the election day came closer. [] Postal balloting was expected to make up 7%–8% of the total vote; [] due to postal votes, the final result of the election will not be known for a week after the election (on 6 October 2008). [] Postal ballots had to be sent to electoral commission together with a signed piece of paper stating the time and place when the vote had taken place; [] at a spot check in Salzburg, 20% of postal ballots were invalid because they lacked the signature or time and place. [] 9.27% of the voters (586,759 of 6,332,931 voters) had requested postal ballots, which meant that postal ballots could decisively change the election outcome. []

Another part of the 2007 electoral reform was that it was now possible to accommodate election observers in the election process. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development declined the invitation to send observers, however, stating that the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights had insufficient funds to send observers on such short notice. []

The Swiss "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" stated that Dinkhauser had "with hindsight been the first link in a chain of causation which led to the early elections, even though he had only wanted to force open the incrusted political landscape in Tyrol". ("Rückblickend wurde damit der Tiroler Dinkhauser, der mit seiner «Liste Fritz» eigentlich nur die verkrusteten Verhältnisse in Tirol aufsprengen wollte, zum ersten Glied jener Kausalkette, die zu der Ankündigung vorgezogener Neuwahlen geführt hat.") []

The election set a record for the largest number of parties contesting the election nationally, with ten parties: []
* Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ, social democratic)
* Austrian People's Party (ÖVP, Christian democratic)
* The Greens – The Green Alternative (GRÜNE, green)
* Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ, nationalist)
* Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ, nationalist)
* Liberal Forum (LIF, liberal)
* Citizens' Forum Austria (FRITZ, Christian social)
* Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ, communist)
* Save Austria (RETTÖ, eurosceptic)
* The Christians (DC, Christian conservative)

In addition, four lists contested the election in some states (the total of fourteen lists contesting the election in at least one state also constituted a record):] []

* Left (LINKE, socialist; only in Burgenland, Salzburg, Tyrol, Upper Austria, Vienna)
* Animal Rights Party (TRP, animal welfare; only in Vienna)
* List Strong (STARK; only in Carinthia)
* Dipl.-Ing. Karlheinz Klement (only in Carinthia; a splinter from the Carinthian FPÖ, see below for details)

The previous records had been achieved in the 1994 election, when eight parties contested the election nationally (SPÖ, ÖVP, FPÖ, Greens, LIF, KPÖ, No to NATO and EU and the United Greens of Austria) and thirteen in at least one state (the eight mentioned before plus the Christian Electoral Community, the Austrian Natural Law Party, the Civic Greens of Austria, The Best Party and the list Fritz Georg). [] []


Parliamentary parties

ocial Democratic Party of Austria

The Social Democratic Party of Austria was lead by infrastructure minister Werner Faymann and not by the incumbent chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, as the party had decided to have a single person as party leader and leading candidate again. [] Faymann officially became party leader on 8 August 2008. [] The SPÖ announced it would not form a coalition with the FPÖ. [] On 20 July 2008, Faymann announced he would prefer it if Molterer would not be part of the next government, but also stated he was open to a new attempt at a grand coalition with new personalities; [] on 23 August 2008 he specifically mentioned agriculture minister Josef Pröll as his preferred partner. [] He reiterated his calls for a new grand coalition on 20 September 2008. [] Some members of the Carinthian SPÖ, most notably mayor of Villach Helmut Manzenreiter, were open to an SPÖ–FPÖ coalition, but the party base was strongly against this idea. []

There were rumours that Gusenbauer would become foreign minister after the election, [] which were encouraged when he was frequently abroad during the time of the election campaign. [] There were also suggestions he would be nominated to become European Commissioner after the 2009 European Parliament election if the SPÖ won the legislative election. [] Both of these possible offices for Gusenbauer appeared to be unlikely after the election, however. [] Faymann announced on 20 September 2008 that he would like to regain the finance ministry from the ÖVP in the government to be formed after the election, and that education minister Claudia Schmied would be his preferred finance minister. []

President Heinz Fischer (also from the SPÖ) said that he understood the need for early elections and stated that he would be open to three-party governments and minority governments (both of which would be a first in Austrian political history, but will likely be necessary to avoid another grand coalition). [] He also called for quick coalition negotiations. []

In its election program, the SPÖ repeated its calls for abolishing university tuition fees and introducing a comprehensive school ("Gesamtschule") for teenagers aged 10 to 14 instead of the early differentiation between "Hauptschule" and "Gymnasium"; it also called for providing all-day child care across the country, relief for lower and middle incomes and an additional increase of pensions to keep up with inflation. []

SPÖ MP and university spokesman Josef Broukal announced his withdrawal from politics shortly after the election had been called over the second failed attempt to abolish university tuition fees. On 22 July 2008 SPÖ state secretary for infrastructure Christa Kranzl announced she would not stand in the election due to personal differences between her and Faymann and problems with support from her local party. [] An internet initiative called for her to remain in politics, and she stated on 21 August 2008 that she might reconsider her move if asked by Faymann to continue her work in government; [] on 4 September 2008 she announced that she had now changed her mind and would like to be part of the next government. [] Rudolf Parnigoni, Robert Rada, Anita Fleckl and Peter Marizzi, all SPÖ MPs, will also retire. []] Carinthian SPÖ chairwoman and state councillor Gaby Schaunig resigned from all of her offices, accusing governor Jörg Haider from the BZÖ of mobbing and insulting her; [] Reinhart Rohr officially replaced her on 23 August 2008. [] Long-time SPÖ MP Erwin Niederwieser announced on 29 July 2008 that he would retire. [] Justice minister Maria Berger announced on 4 August 2008 in an interview with the "Kurier" that she would like to remain in office after the election; while she said it would be easier to push through some reforms in a coalition other than the grand coalition, she was not against continuing the coalition, and even stated that she disagreed with the Greens on introducing same-sex marriage. [] Defence minister Norbert Darabos announced on 5 August 2008 that he would like to stay in office and warned against a revival of the ÖVP–FPÖ coalition. []

Social minister Erwin Buchinger announced on 30 July 2008 that he would not stand for parliament; while he claimed that it would be up to Faymann whether he would stay on as social minister, it was rumoured that Faymann would choose someone from the Austrian Trade Union Federation as social minister instead, due to tradition and the need for reconciliation with the unions. [] [] While Buchinger stated on 2 August 2008 he was not tired of politics and was not at all ruling out staying on as social minister, [] president of the National Council Barbara Prammer (also SPÖ) said that possible successors for Buchinger as social minister would be Renate Csörgits, chairwoman of the social issues committee in the National Council, and family issues spokeswoman Andrea Kuntzl. [] On 3 August 2008, ÖVP social issues spokesman Werner Amon laid claim to the social ministry after the election, declaring that this would be an issue in coalition talks after the election; the SPÖ immediately denounced this claim. [] The Faction of Social Democratic Unionists ("Fraktion Sozialdemokratischer Gewerkschafter"), the SPÖ's union wing, also laid claims to the social ministry, [] although some union leaders stated that the incumbent Buchinger would also count as being from the unions, as his position and actitivites within the Public Employment Service Austria ("Arbeitsmarktservice Österreich") were proof enough of his unionist mindset. []

A number of important high-ranking former SPÖ officials and SPÖ supporters wrote an open letter to the SPÖ, which was published on 5 August 2008, in which they criticised the current course the SPÖ was taking under Faymann's leadership; [] [] Faymann rejected their criticism the following day. []

Austrian People's Party

The Austrian People's Party went into the election with vice chancellor Wilhelm Molterer as its leader. [] The ÖVP stated it would try to form a three-party coalition before attempting another grand coalition, though some internal voices have dissented from that; [] the ÖVP did also not explicitly rule out a coalition with FPÖ or BZÖ, but stated that its coalition partners would have to be clearly supportive of the EU, [] thus strongly indicating a preference for a coalition with the Greens. Former ÖVP leader and former chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel stated on 1 August 2008 that he was against a coalition involving Faymann's SPÖ, but also claimed that there would be a "change of thinking" ("Undenken") in the SPÖ after the election. President of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber Christoph Leitl, well-known for his preference of the grand coalition, refused to state his preferences before the election. [] Some (especially ÖVP members in Vorarlberg) voiced their preference for another ÖVP–FPÖ coalition. [] Molterer stated on 5 August 2008 that he had nothing against three-party coalitions and would also consider a minority government. []

Molterer was considered to be under strong internal pressure at the beginning of the election campaign; the party leaders from Lower Austria (Erwin Pröll), Upper Austria (Josef Pühringer) and Styria (Hermann Schützenhöfer) have all criticised his leadership at some point, [] though they later stated they had set their differences aside. [] In late August 2008, rumours surfaced according to which Molterer was planned to be replaced by agriculture minister Josef Pröll if the ÖVP lost the election, [] or even before the election if the polls continued to show a likely defeat for the ÖVP. [] The ÖVP (including Pröll himself) strongly denied these allegations. []

ÖVP vice federal chairwoman, vice state chairwoman for Tyrol and former state councillor Elisabeth Zanon resigned all her party offices and even publicly considered renouncing her party membership after she was not confirmed as a Tyrolean state councillor in the new cabinet of former interior minister and new governor Günther Platter after the 2008 election in Tyrol, stating that the new political style was unacceptable to her. [] ÖVP MP and former state secretary for infrastructure Helmut Kukacka announced on 23 July 2008 that he would also stand down from politics and go into business instead. [] Carinthian ÖVP MP Klaus Auer also retired, stating his dislike for the current kind of politics in Carinthia (referring especially to Haider's populist actions). [] MPs Karl Freund, Walter Murauer and Edeltraud Lentsch will also retire. Health minister Andrea Kdolsky said she would like to stay on as minister and initially claimed that it had not yet been decided whether she would stand as a candidate on the ÖVP's lists, [] but later announced she would not stand on the party's lists. [] On 20 August 2008, it became apparent that Kdolsky would not serve any political function after the election, [] reportedly because of internal dissent over her popularity; she had reportedly been strongly lobbied by many party members to withdraw from politics. [] Economy minister Martin Bartenstein announced he would not be willing to stay as minister in a government led by Faymann, voicing preferences for an ÖVP–FPÖ–BZÖ coalition instead. [] When Faymann stated that he would lay claim to the foreign ministry for the SPÖ after the election in coalition negotiations, Schüssel strongly rebuked him on 5 September 2008, criticising the SPÖ's party line on the EU and on foreign affairs in general. []

The only new point in the ÖVP's election program, presented on 31 August 2008, was the call for a income-contingent child benefit; [] the SPÖ, the Greens and the LIF were strongly in favour of the new proposal, while the FPÖ and the BZÖ were sceptical. Despite the support for the idea, it was considered unlikely that the proposed changes would be passed into law in the parliamentary sessions in September (see below). [] The ÖVP announced on 8 September 2008 that it would seek citizens' input on a number of campaign promises to which it would consider itself bound in coalition negotiations under a scheme which it called "citizens' contract" ("Bürgervertrag"); [] [] the performance of the ÖVP would be controlled by a "council of the wise" ("Weisenrat"). The ÖVP has stated it would like former president of the Court of Auditors Franz Fiedler as chairman of this council. []

The Greens – The Green Alternative

The Greens – The Green Alternative were lead by long-time federal spokesman Alexander Van der Bellen. They stated that they were in favour of the snap election, as no work could be done in the current government; their main goal was to be strong enough to be a viable coalition partner for either of the two main parties. [] The Greens ruled out a coalition with the FPÖ and appear highly critical of a coalition including the BZÖ. [] Green politicians stated that the ÖVP would have to change in order for a black-green coalition to be a possibility from their side, especially regarding the abuse of power, the distribution of important offices to people closely related to the ÖVP, the illegal distribution of confidential data and other issues. [] [] [] In general, green politicians stated that they are interested in a black-green "experiment"; a red-green coalition was seen as more likely due to less differences on important issues between the two parties, but the SPÖ's new position on the EU was seen to be a problem. The Greens also stated they would like to cooperate with the LIF and did not rule out a coalition with Dinkhauser. [] After the ÖVP had started its election campaign, Van der Bellen criticised the xenophobic content of one of the election posters and declared it highly unlikely that a ÖVP–Greens coalition would be possible. []

The Greens called for the reunification of the education ministry and the science and universities ministry, which had been split after the 2006 election, and announced that they would lay claim to such a merged ministry in coalitions negotiations. []

Green MPs Sabine Mandak and Theresia Haidlmayr (the Greens' handicapped spokeswoman) had announced they would not stand in the election; Haidlmayr stated she had not chance to be selected by her party and that the Greens had now got different priorities than handicapped persons' rights and that they wanted fresh and younger faces on their candidate lists. [] She did not rule out being interested in becoming state secretary for handicapped people, but stated she would not seek the office at all costs. [] Chief secretary Michaela Sburny stated that she regretted Haidlmayr's decision, but denied claims that Haidlmayr had been denied a safe seat, as all candidate lists are decided by the whole membership of the Greens, thus rendering the granting or denying of a safe seat impossible. [] Another Green MP stated that there were no seats explicitly reserved for immigrants or handicapped people. [] MP and women and human rights spokeswoman Brigid Weinzinger was deselected by the Lower Austrian Greens, [] and youth issues spokeswoman Barbara Zwerschitz was also deselected.

Animal rights activists Martin Balluch, chairman of the Society against Animal Factories ("Verein gegen Tierfabriken"), and Sabine Koch of the Basis Group Animal Rights ("Basisgruppe Tierrechte"), who were remanded in custody on grounds of "founding a criminal organisation" together with eight other animal rights activists on 21 May 2008 after a razzia in the animal activist scene, [] which the Greens consider to be untenable (as the law under which they are held was meant to help combat mafia crime), stood on the Greens' candidate lists (Koch in Vienna, Balluch in the sixteenth place on the national list), [] although in places where they were not expected to gain a seat.] The Greens were accused of supporting criminals with this decision (especially by the ÖVP and the BZÖ), but they argued that this was a question of principles and that the animal rights activists were not guilty of any crime. [] On 13 August 2008, one of the ten activists was released, [] and on 2 September 2008, the nine others were released from custody. The body of public prosecutors ("Oberstaatsanwaltschaft", OStA) had decided that the reason for the detention, danger of suppression of evidence, was no longer valid; while the OStA claimed that danger of committing an offence was still given, they had to be released because of a possible disparity of means in the length of their detention should they be found to be innocent. [] The Greens welcomed their release, while the BZÖ accused the Greens and the SPÖ of having made a deal linking the release of the animal rights activists to the Greens' votes in favour of Faymann's measures against the rising prices. [] While Balluch had stated he would not rule out conducting a preference vote campaign in order to gain a seat in the National Council, this was not possible as preference votes can only be given on the regional and state level. []

The Greens determine all of their candidate lists through voting of party members at party conventions; the federal convention on 7 September 2008 had to decide on who was placed in the first positions on the national list and would therefore enter parliament. Party leader Van der Bellen and vice-leader Eva Glawischnig were set to be placed in positions one and two; two immigrant women (Alev Korun from Turkey and Beatrice Achaleke from Cameroon) vied for third place (with Burgenland leading candidate Christiane Brunner and two minor candidates), and three long-time party members (security spokesman Peter Pilz, social issues spokesman Karl Öllinger and budget spokesman Bruno Rossmann) vied for places four and six. [] Pilz, a long-time MP and former party leader, threatened to withdraw from politics if he was not selected on the fourth place of the national candidate list; Öllinger was also on the Viennese list, but Pilz and Rossmann could only remain MPs if they were selected for safe positions on the national list. Pilz stated he would not vie for sixth place if rejected for fourth place. In the first round Korun got 42% and Achaleke 38%, with 19% for the three other candidates; Korun won against Achaleke in the run-off with 54% to 46%. Pilz was selected in the first vote with 51% to Öllinger's 35%, with Rossmann and a minor candidate both gaining 7%. [] Chief secretary Sburny lost the selection for fifth place against Burgenland leading candidate Brunner, youth and children issues spokeswoman Barbara Zwerschitz and two minor candidates (who already vied for third place) after three rounds of voting (34% to 31% to 25% to 11%, 44% to 36% to 20% and 59% to 41%); her defeat was likely due to strong criticism of the office cumulation, as she would have become both an MP and remained chief secretary. Öllinger, Rossmann and four minor candidates vied for sixth place, which Öllinger won in the first vote 52% to 28% to 18%. Helene Jarmer, president of the Austrian Alliance of the Deaf ("Österreichischer Gehörlosenbund") was selected for the seventh place over the two minor candidates from before with 89%; Rossmann was selected for eighth place, Zwerschitz for ninth. []

The Greens presented their new website on 25 August 2008. []

Freedom Party of Austria

The Freedom Party of Austria was lead by Heinz-Christian Strache, who had criticised the snap elections and demanded the coalition partners should bear the administrative costs of the early elections. [] The FPÖ did not explicitly rule out a coalition with anyone, although it claimed the ÖVP was trying to "murder" it and the SPÖ was watching from the sidelines. Strache stated however that he did not want to work together with either Molterer or Faymann and that he hoped both large parties would lose enough votes to cause a change of party leadership. [] When other parties (ÖVP and Greens) announced plans to present lateral hires ("Quereinsteiger") on their candidate lists, the FPÖ stated that it was against lateral hires out of principle. [] The FPÖ stated its goals were to become the third-largest party again and to become strong enough to break the two-thirds majority which SPÖ and ÖVP had held together since 1945. [] Secretary-general Vilismky claimed that parties which wished to enter into a coalition with the FPÖ after the election could not rule out do so before the election. [] Strache stated on 28 August 2008 he did not want to be part of an unstable three-party coalition and wanted to gain more than 15% of the votes. [] Analysts speculated that his refusal to be part of a three-party coalition was an attempt to destabilise the Austrian political system. []

FPÖ MP Karlheinz Klement, who had been in the national media because of his repeated attacks on gender mainstreaming (which he called "gender madness", "Gender-Wahnsinn") and homosexuality (which he referred to as "a culture of death", "eine Kultur des Todes"), was first put in a back-row place in the Carinthian candidate lists of the FPÖ and was later expelled on 31 July 2008 for "behaviour which could damage the party" ("parteischädigendes Verhalten"). Klement had twice been expelled from the FPÖ before 2008. [] Klement stated on 1 August 2008 that there were two factions in the Carinthian FPÖ: those who agreed with the federal FPÖ led by Strache and those who wanted to seek reunification with the BZÖ (with a minority reportedly in favour of cooperation with Dinkhauser). Klement did not rule out joining the BZÖ with his supporters. [] A split of the Carinthian FPÖ was not ruled out. [] Klement said he would take his expulsion to the courts and claimed he would bring the end of Strache and the secretary-generals Vilimsky and Herbert Kickl. [] The FPÖ stated it was not afraid of Klement's threats, while the BZÖ said it was open to any people from the FPÖ who wished to join them. [] Klement submitted his own state candidate list (with Klement himself as leading candidate) to the state election agency ("Landeswahlbehörde") with the signatures of Klement, BZÖ MP Sigisbert Dolinschek and independent and former FPÖ MP Ewald Stadler; Carinthian FPÖ leader Franz Schwager stated that he would submit his own list (with Harald Jannach as its leading candidate), and thus the state election agency will have to decide on 28 August 2008 which of the two candidate lists is the legitimate FPÖ list, unless Schwager and Klement arrive at an agreement before that; the other list will have then be considered as a separate list with a new name. [] [] [] [] Klement later announced he wanted to expel Strache and MEP Andreas Mölzer from the FPÖ for the same reason for which he was expelled; he stated he would certainly contest the election, with his own list if necessary, and wanted to reunify the FPÖ, the BZÖ and his group within the next two or three years. [] Klement and Stadler (see below) were officially expelled from the FPÖ's parliamentary group on 20 August 2008.] The "official" FPÖ list in Carinthia was submitted on 22 August 2008; Schwager was confident that his list would be accepted as the FPÖ list in Carinthia, as all 26 candidates on the list were also on the FPÖ's federal candidate list, and stated as his goals to surpass the Greens and gain more than 10% of the votes. [] Klement announced on 25 August 2008 he had offered as a compromise to contest the election as the "List FREE" ("Liste FREI") instead, with the full name "DI Karlheinz Klement – Non-party Freedom-minded List" ("DI Karlheinz Klement – Parteilose, freiheitliche Liste"), and the state election agency initially indicated it saw no problems with this proposal. [] However, on 28 August 2008 the state election agency unanimously decided to reject his request and to have him contest the election as "Dipl.-Ing. Karlheinz Klement" instead. [] Klement stated he was considering challenging the validity of the decision at the Constitutional Court and even challenging the election result. []

In mid-September 2008, photos which allegedly show Strache participating in "Wehrsportübungen" (paramilitary training sessions and reenactments of combat situations, often with real weapons and considered to be an activity of far right and neo-Nazi groups) in the late 1980s resurfaced; the photos had originally been made public in early 2007, but "News" republished them with additional details visible, such as real weapons being used. The FPÖ denied all of these accusations and claimed that Strache was only participating in paintball games. [] The Greens strongly criticised Strache and some groups within the SPÖ called for his resignation. []

Alliance for the Future of Austria

The Alliance for the Future of Austria was initially assumed to be lead by Peter Westenthaler, ['] but it was later announced that he would not be the leading candidate. [] Westenthaler's position was endangered as he was before the courts both for false testimony in a case dating back to 2006 and for personal injury of a policeman after a UEFA Euro 2008 match, where he hit a policeman with his car slightly injuring the policeman's knee. Westenthaler disdained all these investigations and claimed they were smear campaigns by SPÖ, ÖVP and/or FPÖ; he stated that it was his choice whether he would lead the BZÖ or whether somebody else would do it, and that the decision would be made by the end of July. [] A judgment on the issue of false testimony was handed down on 29 July 2008; Westenthaler faced up to three years' prison, but received a suspended sentence of nine months, which he appealed immediately. On the same day, it was announced that Westenthaler would not be the BZÖ's leading candidate. [] [] He would, however, be on the lists on a safe place and thus likely would remain an MP; [] he also announced he would remain party leader, although this was later contradicted. [] The BZÖ's reaction to the judgment (it claimed the judgment was politically motivated) was heavily criticised by the media, especially as the BZÖ's party program has a strong law and order character. [] Westenthaler's claims that he would also be the leading candidate in Vienna were criticised by one of the two factions in the Viennese BZÖ, who threatened to refuse to campaign for the BZÖ in case Westenthaler would be the Viennese leading candidate. [] The Viennese BZÖ split into two factions, both of which claimed to be the legitimate state boards; one of them (led by Viennese BZÖ leader Michael Tscharnutter) wanted to nominate Westenthaler as Viennese leading candidate, if he wanted to, while the other one (led by former Viennese BZÖ leader Günther Barnet) nominated former defence minister Herbert Scheibner and voted Tscharnutter out of office. [] An internal tribunal had decided on 2 June 2008 that Tscharnutter's faction was illegitimate; [] Barnet's faction was reported to have given in on 19 August 2008 in order to avoid weakening the party's stand in Vienna; Barnet denied these allegations on the same day. [] Westenthaler stated he needed a few days' respite before deciding whether to accept the position as leading candidate in Vienna; Scheibner would then be in second place on the Viennese lists. [] [] On 19 August 2008, it was announced that Scheibner would be the leading candidate in Vienna, with Westenthaler in second place. []]

Rumours that Carinthian governor Jörg Haider himself might be the leading candidate were initially denied. [] Deputy leader Stefan Petzner stated on 28 July 2008 that the leading candidate would be a "small sensation" and that his identity would be announced by mid-August. [] There were rumours that the leading candidate might be independent MP Ewald Stadler, who left the FPÖ and was formerly "Volksanwalt". [] On 30 July 2008 Petzner stated he could "neither confirm nor deny" reports that Haider would be the leading candidate, but that Haider would certainly be more active in federal politics in the future. [] On 1 August 2008, FPÖ secretary-general Harald Vilismky strongly attacked Stadler. []

It appeared on 2 August 2008 that Stadler's possible candicacy had possibly been a rumour deliberately circulated by the BZÖ [] in order to make it more of a surprise that Haider would be the leading candidate. [] Haider stated he would not be against becoming party leader, but emphasised that he would remain governor of Carinthia and would not become an MP, while not ruling out becoming the leading candidate, though he insisted that if so, he would become the BZÖ's "chancellor candidate"; [] Westenthaler at the same time stated Haider would become party leader and leading candidate, and claimed that 15% of the votes were possible with Haider as leading candidate. [] On 2 August 2008, Westenthaler stated he was considering a complete withdrawal from politics after handing over to his successor. [] Both Haider and Westenthaler said on the same day that they had talked with Stadler; Haider said it was up to Westenthaler to decide whether Stadler would be leading candidate or not, but that relations between him and Stadler had now bettered again, while Westenthaler stated that Stadler might be a candidate for the BZÖ but would not be leading candidate. [] In an interview Haider gave to "Österreich" on 3 August 2008, he confirmed he would be the leading candidate. [] The party would stand under the name "BZÖ – Jörg Haider's List" ("BZÖ – Liste Jörg Haider"), and Haider explicitly repeated that he would only be a chancellor candidate and that the second politician on the federal candidate list would become chief of the parliamentary club in the National Council, not him, and reopened speculation that Stadler might be the second leading candidate of the BZÖ.] Petzner confirmed on the same date that Haider would officially become BZÖ leader and leading candidate on 30 August 2008;] on that date, Haider was elected with 100% of the votes as the new BZÖ leader.] In an interview with "Österreich", Stadler stated on 5 August 2008 he would very much like to work together with Haider and stand on his lists, in an attempt to win over FPÖ voters and officials. [] [] Haider was officially announced to be the BZÖ's leading candidate on 14 August 2008. [] Stadler was confirmed to be running for the BZÖ (while officially remaining independent) on 16 August 2008. []

The BZÖ was reportedly trying to convince a number of former ministers and state secretaries to return to politics, among them Elisabeth Sickl, Herbert Haupt and Ursula Haubner (all former social ministers). Former president of the Court of Auditors Franz Fiedler had also been contacted; [] [] while he did not stand on the BZÖ's lists, Haider claimed that Fiedler would be available as a minister. [] Former vice-chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer was also being lobbied to enter politics again,] but she clearly stated she was not interested in any way.] Former FPÖ member Ernest Windholz made a comeback as the BZÖ's leading candidate in Lower Austria. Former FPÖ "Bundesgeschäftsführerin" Martina Schenk joined the BZÖ (she claimed she was being treated unfairly in the FPÖ) and was officially presented as one of its candidates on 25 August 2008, [] and there were rumours that construction industry entrepreneur Richard Lugner (who had previously unsuccessfully contested the 1998 presidential and 1999 legislative elections with his party The Independents) might appear as a BZÖ candidate in Vienna, [] although this turned out to be a hoax on the same day. []

On 8 September 2008, the BZÖ announced that Petzner would be second on the list, followed by Westenthaler, Stadler and Schenk. []

BZÖ secretary-general Gerald Grosz announced that the party's goal was to gain at least 7% of votes, [] while Haider said he would like to double the BZÖ's votes from 4% to 8%. Haider later stated on 24 August 2008 he would like to become chancellor and would consider FPÖ leader Strache as his vice chancellor, and also claimed that the BZÖ would gain more than the 6–7% of the vote it was projected to receive at most by polls at that time. []

Extraparliamentary parties

Apart from the five parties represented in parliament with their own parliamentary groups (SPÖ, ÖVP, Greens, FPÖ, BZÖ) and the Communist Party of Austria, which has contested all elections in Austria since 1945, a number of other parties stated they planned to or were considering contesting the election. Parties require either the signatures of 3 MPs or the signatures 2,600 citizens (proportionally divided among the different states: 100 in Burgenland and Vorarlberg, 200 in Carinthia, Salzburg and Tyrol, 400 in Styria and Upper Austria and 500 in Lower Austria and Vienna) between 29 July 2008 and 22 August 2008 in order to stand. [] The signatures have to come from citizens who are eligible to vote in the election; one can only support one party per election through one's signature, and the statement of support has to be signed at the town hall in front of an official. In addition, parties have to pay a fee of €435 to cover printing costs in each state, for a total of €3,915 to contest the election in all states. []

Liberal Forum

The Liberal Forum, represented in parliament from 2006 to 2008 by Alexander Zach as a single MP in the SPÖ's parliamentary group thanks to a pre-election agreement with the SPÖ prior to the 2006 election, announced it would contest the election, though it did not initially state whether Zach, LIF founder Heide Schmidt or well-known manager Hans-Peter Haselsteiner would be leading the electoral list; [] [] analysts asserted that either Schmidt or Haselsteiner would have to be the main candidate in order for the LIF to have a chance of gaining the required 4%. [] [] Analysts were divided on whether the LIF had a chance of entering parliament. [] [] The LIF announced, after preparatory party meetings on 12 July and 13 July 2008, that it was structurally and financially prepared to contest the election, but that the decision on whether it would actually participate hinged on the location of appropriate candidates; [] on 15 July 2008, the LIF announced it would stand, and that it would officially announce its main candidate by 28 July 2008. [] On 23 July 2008 it was announced that the leading candidate had been determined, and that a presentation of the political program and the candidate list would take place on 25 July 2008. [] On 25 July 2008 it was announced that Schmidt would lead the LIF into the elections, and that Haselsteiner would be the economy spokesman. [] The election campaign budget was announced to be €1.5 million.]

It was announced on 30 July 2008 that Rudi Vouk, lawyer and activist of the Carinthian Slovenes, one of the most outspoken critics of Jörg Haider, would be the leading candidate of the LIF in Carinthia and would be the LIF's constitutional law spokesman. Vouk is also a member of the "Enotna lista", [] which announced its support for the LIF; it had also previously been a partner of the LIF in the 1990s. [] The BZÖ claimed the candidacy of Vouk amounted to a "declaration of war" against them. [] Marion Kitzberger, the founder of the "Linzer Lernwerkstatt", was announced to be the LIF's leading candidate in Upper Austria and the family and social issues spokeswoman. Zach also stated he would not rule out supporting a minority government after the election. [] Maria Schaffenrath was announced as the LIF's leading candidate in Tyrol and its women's issues and education spokeswoman [] , David Loidolt as defence spokesman and leading candidate in Burgenland (he called for the abolition of conscription) [] and lateral hire Christine Szalay as leading candidate in Vorarlberg. [] The Viennese list, lead by Schmidt and Zach themselves, also featured youth issues spokeswoman Daphne Frankl, justice spokesman Alexander Hofmann, budget and finances spokesman Peter Unger and science and research spokesman Ronald J. Pohoryles. [] The leading candidate in Lower Austria and spokesman for art, culture, communication and the environment was Rudolf Berger, former director of the Vienna Volksoper, [] and the leading candidate in Styria was Gabriele Metz. [] The national list also featured Stefan Gara, an expert in energy and climate protection and the new LIF spokesman for this field. []

Besides Schmidt and Haselsteiner, there were unconfirmed rumours that two other people might appear as LIF candidates: former justice minister Karin Gastinger, who left the BZÖ over Westenthaler's comments about deportation about immigrants in the 2006 election campaigning, and Josef Broukal, the former ORF newsanchor who joined the SPÖ, became its university spokesman and left shortly after the early elections were called (because the SPÖ decided not to abolish university tuition fees together with Greens and FPÖ, deciding to adhere to the coalition pact signed with the ÖVP despite the ÖVP's decision to withdraw from the coalition). Former short-time LIF leader Christian Köck had also been mentioned as a possible candidate.

MEP Karin Resetarits, who was elected on Hans-Peter Martin's List in the 2004 European Parliament election, but later fell out with him and joined the LIF, announced on 17 July 2008 she would participate in the campaign, but did not want to go into national Austrian politics as she wanted to serve out her term in the European Parliament until June 2009 (if she were to resign, the mandate would next have to be offered to the next person on the electoral list of Hans-Peter Martin's List in 2004). [] On 21 August 2008 she was announced as the LIF's leading candidate in Salzburg and as its European Union spokeswoman. [] It was also announced on that date that former SPÖ member of the students' council Barbara Blaha, who left the SPÖ over its failure to abolish university tuition fees, had been approached by the LIF, but that Blaha had declined to join the LIF. []

The LIF announced on 19 August 2008 that it had gathered the necessary signatures to contest the election in all of Austria, becoming the first extraparliamentary party to do so. []

The new website of the LIF was presented on 1 September 2008. []

In early September 2008, Haselsteiner was criticised (especially by Green MP Pilz) for allegedly having subidised political parties in Hungary in exchange for public contracts for his company Strabag SE. Haselsteiner denied all accusations and in turn strongly criticised Pilz. [] In mid-September 2008, Zach was accused of having lobbied for EADS, the company behind the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter airplane, while officially opposing them; [] Zach initially rejected these accusations, but then conceded that he had worked for EADS. He emphasised that he had strictly separated this lobbying activity from his political career. [] Nonetheless, the LIF held a meeting late on 22 September 2008 to decide the party's reaction to the allegations. [] On 23 September 2008, Zach announced his resignation as LIF party leader, as an MP and as its candidate in the elections, while still rejecting all allegations. Schmidt took over as LIF party leader. [] David Nekula (SPÖ) replaced Zach as an MP in the outgoing parliament, as Zach was elected on the SPÖ's list in 2006. [] Analysts differed whether the EADS issue would hurt the LIF's chances to enter parliament or not. [] []

Citizens' Forum Austria, Save Austria and the Whites of Austria

The Citizens' Forum Austria of Fritz Dinkhauser (the short name is FRITZ), which had just become the second-largest party in Tyrol in the Tyrolean state election on 8 June 2008, announced it would contest the election, although it was not initially decided whether nationally or only in Tyrol. Dinkhauser expected his movement to be joined by unionists, economists, mayors and doctors from across the country. [] Leading members of the ÖVP demanded that Dinkhauser should leave the ÖVP, of which he still was a member, if he ran against them nationally. [] Later statements indicated Dinkhauser would not be expelled from the ÖVP to avoid making a martyr of him. [] However, due to the ÖVP's party statutes, Dinkhauser effectively left the ÖVP of his own will by accepting a political mandate from another party, which he did by becoming a state MP for his Citizens' Forum Tyrol in the Tyrolean "Landtag". [] [] It was not clear how many Tyrolean ÖVP members joined the FRITZ together with Dinkhauser, but the number was reported to be very high. [] The name of the list was announced as "Citizens' Forum Austria – Fritz Dinkhauser's List" ("Bürgerforum Österreich – Liste Fritz Dinkhauser"). [] Dinkhauser formally decided on 28 July 2008 that he would contest the election, as it was widely assumed that he would, [] since he had secured the necessary financial backing. []

Dinkhauser had secured the cooperation of the Free Citizens' Lists ("Freie Bürgerlisten", a group of former FPÖ members) in Burgenland, [] and had reportedly got strong backing in Styria as well, [] with rumours of a participation of fellow ÖVP rebel Gerhard Hirschmann (who failed to enter the "Landtag" in the 2005 election in Styria) in his list. [] [] Hirschmann stated he supported Dinkhauser, but would not participate personally. [] Upper Austrian farmer rebel Leo Steinbichler also supported Dinkhauser. [] Dinkhauser's main Tyrolean ally Gurgiser stated, however, that he thought the national candidacy was a mistake and that he would certainly stay in Tyrol. At a later date, it was reported that one of Dinkhauser's most important supporters (who declined to be named, but was assumed to be Gurgiser) was strongly against turning the Citizens' Forum Tyrol into a national party, as he saw it as far more important to establish it as the primary opposition to the ÖVP in Tyrol instead. [] The election campaign budget was announced to be €2.5 million, making it the largest budget of the extraparliamentary parties; at a later date, is was reported to be only €1 million.]

Two migrants' lists, the "New Movement for the Future" ("Neue Bewegung für die Zukunft") led by the Austrian Chamber of Labour rebel Adnan Dincer in Vorarlberg and the small "List for Our Lower Austria" ("Liste für unser Niederösterreich") were reportedly interested in cooperation, though Dincer stated he wouldn't stand in the election but just offer his support to Dinkhauser. [] Furthermore, there had been rumours about contacts with former finance minister Karl-Heinz Grasser. [] A group of doctors and medics in opposition to the health system reform called "The Whites of Austria" ("Die Weißen Österreichs", DWÖ, initially just "The Whites", "Die Weißen") lead by Eva Raunig were reportedly also in contact with Dinkhauser,] but later announced they would not work together with him and were considering an independent candicacy; subsequently Raunig announced they would be supporting him, but another leading member contradicted her.]]

Former presidential candidate (in the 1998 election) and pro-neutrality activist Karl Walter Nowak's anti-EU initiative "Save Austria" ("Rettet Österreich") announced it would contest the election and was reported to be in contact with the FRITZ;] it claimed to have the "Kronen Zeitung"'s support, and was assumed to have controversial jurist Adrian Hollaender as its main candidate instead of Nowak, as Nowak's controversial books had proven to be counterproductive in his past attempts at politics, although this turned out to have been a rumour. [] It was initially unclear whether there would be a joint list with Dinkhauser, [] but in the end Save Austria decided to stand on its own, after Dinkhauser had refused to cooperate with them (reportedly, Dinkhauser refused to grant Nowak a place on the candidate lists which would guarantee him a seat in the National Council). Save Austria announced on 20 August 2008 that it had gathered the necessary signatures. [] It said it would not have a leading candidate in the traditional sense, but that party founder Wilfried Auerbach would be first on their national lists, with Nowak also in a leading position; they also stated they would prefer to stay in the opposition and work constructively and that their goal was to reach the electoral threshold of 4%. The short name of the party was announced to be RETTÖ. []

MEP Hans-Peter Martin, who had failed to get into parliament in the 2006 election with 2.8% (below the electoral threshold of 4%), was considering whether his Hans-Peter Martin's List would contest the election or not; [] he had ruled out joining forces with Save Austria, stating that he was "critical of the EU, but pro-European", whereas they were "anti-European", [] but it was considered possible that Martin would join forces with Dinkhauser, as they had reportedly got strong personal connections. [] A first meeting was held on 12 July 2008; [] Dinkhauser stated he had not yet been contacted by Nowak, while Martin still ruled out cooperation with Nowak. [] Following this meeting, there were rumours that Martin could stay in the European Parliament and only offer his support to Dinkhauser.] Before another meeting could be held on 16 July 2008, Martin announced he would not run in the election; [] Dinkhauser and Martin stated that there had been no disagreement between them and that they had the same goals, but that Martin had decided he could continue his work more efficiently in the European Parliament. [] Martin did, however, also criticise the lack of organisational structure behind Dinkhauser's movement. [] Dinkhauser said "one had to accept" Martin's decision to concentrate on his work in the EU. []

On 29 July 2008, Dinkhauser announced that he would contest the elections, but also stated that neither Save Austria nor the Free Citizens' Lists would be contesting the election together with him; [] the Free Citizens' Lists stated they would, however, support Dinkhauser financially and with collecting the necessary signatures. [] [] [] Save Austria decided to contest the election on its own instead. [] The Whites of Austria did not immediately announce their plans (they were considering running independently, which they claimed had been their plan all along), but criticised Dinkhauser in many points and claimed that they would certainly have more success than Hackl's SKÖ or the LIF; [] Raunig later announced on 7 August 2008 that they would be supporting Dinkhauser after all, as they had the feeling he understood their issues and due to the fact that it was difficult to attain competence in all fields of politics on their own, but Raunig's announcement was then contradicted on 8 August 2008 by another spokesman, who said they would neither support Dinkhauser nor the LIF and that they had not yet decided whether they would contest the election on their own or not. On 16 August 2008, they started gathering signatures, [] but announced on 21 August 2008 that they had failed to collect the necessary amount. []

Dinkhauser's goal were 4%–7% of the vote. [] [] Dinkhauser claimed on 2 August 2008 that he had already got party structures and an organisational apparatus ready in seven states, all except Carinthia and Vorarlberg. [] In Styria, Dinkhauser presented the first four candidates on 5 August 2008: two doctors, a former unionist and Karl Zotter, an activist opposing a new power line in eastern Styria. [] The Viennese leading candidate was former FPÖ and BZÖ member Theresia Zierler. []

Dinkhauser was reportedly offered the signatures of three MPs (rumours said from the ÖVP and the Greens), which he refused, preferring to gather signatures like the other parties without their own parliamentary group instead; the ÖVP denied that it had offered Dinkhauser any kind of support. [] On 19 August 2008, when it appeared that Dinkhauser was facing difficulties gathering the necessary signatures (especially in Vienna), he stated he would possibly accept the offer. [] He stated on 21 August 2008, however, that the three MPs had retracted their offer and that it would be a very close affair whether he would be able to contest the election nationally. [] While he had originally stated he would withdraw his candidacy if he did not succeed in gathering the necessary signatures in all nine states, he stated on 22 August 2008 that he might consider contesting the election even if he failed to gather the last fifty missing signatures in Salzburg by the deadline. [] By midday on 22 August 2008, Dinkhauser had gathered the remaining signatures. []

During the election campaign, a number of notable members of the Faction of Christian Unionists ("Fraktion Christlicher Gewerkschafter") voiced their support for Dinkhauser. [] Dinkhauser has stated that he was very sceptical regarding a possible coalition with the FPÖ or the BZÖ, and that he would not be willing to cooperate with the ÖVP as long as Schüssel remained active. []

Communist Party of Austria and Left

Following moves to create a new left-wing party (the working title was "Left Project", "Linksprojekt", and the official name which was later announced was "Left", "LINKE") it was considered possible that there would be a common left-wing list similar to the German The Left, [] but it was not known whether there would be enough time for a unification of left-wing forces to occur; [] [] the Communist Party of Austria in principle had already decided to contest the election on its own, [] while the Socialist Left Party (SLP) had stated it wanted to pursue this project [] – however, when further inquired, the KPÖ had not ruled out a cooperation with other left-wing parties and groups. In the end, the KPÖ decided to run on its own, but with an open list for other left-wing activists and groups – the KPÖ also stated it fully supported the creation of a new left-wing party, but that there was not enough time before the election; the Left decided on 19 July 2008 that it would run on its own; [] [] the main candidate remained to be determined. [] The Left announced it would campaign for expropriation of the upper ten thousand, for more occupational health and safety and for better integration (including offering free courses in the main languages of immigrants, e.g. Turkish and Serbo-Croatian). [] The Left announced on 19 August 2008 that it would not be able to contest the election in all nine states, but that it had succeeded in Salzburg and Vienna and would try to gather the necessary signatures in Burgenland, Tyrol and Upper Austria; [] it submitted candidate lists in all three states on 22 August 2008, thus contesting the election in five of nine states. SLP member Sonja Grusch was announced to be the leading candidate on the national candidate list on 2 September 2008. [] The KPÖ called for price regulation to combat inflation and for a new attempt at reforming the healthcare system, which the grand coalition failed to implement. [] [] The campaign leaders were the party's two federal spokespersons, Mirko Messner and Melina Klaus. [] The KPÖ announced on 20 August 2008 that it had gathered the necessary signatures to stand in all nine states. []

The Christians

The Christians were also intending to contest the election; they had previously contested the Lower Austrian and Tyrolean state elections in the same year. Their main campaign promise had in all cases been a strengthening of Christian values and an explicit "no" to equal rights for homosexual couples. They announced they had gathered the necessary signatures on 20 August 2008.] The Christians' leading candidate is the lawyer and party founder Alfons Adam; their main campaign topics will be marriage, family and opposition abortion rights. [] In interviews, he repeatedly criticised gender mainstreaming as a "new state religion" which attempts "to abolish man and woman as biological genders"; he repeatedly stated that homosexuality was "a disease" (and accused criticism of that position as being "like the persecution of Christians") and that sex education in schools only served to "encourage fornication and sexual excesses and thus cause inability to form relationships, drug addiction and excessive criminality". [] He further stated that he would abolish the women's ministry and replace it with a "real" family ministry. []

Other parties

Twelve other minor parties also announced their intention to contest the election, and two of them succeeded in submitting candidate lists for the election by the deadline in one state. In addition, former FPÖ MP Karlheinz Klement (expelled from the FPÖ in August 2008) contested the election in Carinthia on his own list, see above.

List Strong ("Liste Stark"), a minor party led by Johann Ehman and active only in Carinthia, [] which had contested the 2006 election (also only in Carinthia) and had gained 312 votes there, also submitted a candidate list for the 2008 election.]

The "Animal Rights Party" ("Tierrechtspartei", TRP), which had contested the Lower Austrian state election (although only in Mödling, where it got 854 votes and became the strongest minor party with 1.34% locally), succeeded in collecting the necessary signatures to contest the election in Vienna.] It is led by Ralph Chaloupek. []

The Pirate Party of Austria (the Austrian section of the Pirate Party), which had already unsuccessfully tried to stand in the 2006 election but failed to gather the necessary signatures, intended to contest the 2008 election. []

Actor Karlheinz Hackl announced he might contest the election with a newly founded party called "Solidary Culture of Austria" ("Solidarische Kultur Österreichs", SKÖ; the name was also sometimes reported to be "Social Culture of Austria", "Soziale Kultur Österreichs"). His main themes would have been culture, education, social issues, immigration and Europe, and he wanted to become stronger than Strache's FPÖ; he also stated he would not lead a usual election campaign, but that he would "sing, dance and tell stories" instead. [] As of early August 2008, he still had not got a website, but he was reported to be gathering signatures nonetheless. [] Despite acknowledging that he was unlikely to be able to contest the election, he stated he had received lots of support personally and would try to contest the Viennese state elections in 2009 next. On 5 September 2008, Hackl officially announced his support for the LIF. []

An internet platform called "Party3" ("Partei3") was founded to contest the election; its main aim was to be the third party in either an SPÖ–Greens or an ÖVP–Greens government and to introduce a number of projects which would be drafted and decided by all of its members over the internet. [] As of early August 2008, the project seemed to have become inactive.

The monarchist movement Black-Yellow Alliance ("Schwarz-Gelbe Allianz") announced on 25 July 2008 it wanted to contest the election. The SGA have not yet announced a leading candidate. Their aims were to reintroduce the monarchy through a referendum in 2018, installing a monarch with a "strong veto right". [] [] On 21 August 2008, they announced they had not succeeded in gathering the necessary signatures in Burgenland, Carinthia and Lower Austria and would therefore not contest the election. []

A number of other minor parties also wanted to contest the election: a list called "Humans Austria" ("Menschen Österreich") led by Johann Klawatsch, [] [] a humanist party called "WE ("WIR"), [] a list of immigrants called "Democratic Diversity of Austria" ("Demokratische Diversität Österreichs", DDÖ) which declared on 11 August 2008 it wanted to contest the election [] and a movement calling for directly democratic decisions on all laws, "plattform-"direkt".at" (PD) – although the latter only intends to stand in Vienna. The DDÖ announced on 21 August 2008 it would not contest the election, despite having received some support and even having been offered the signatures of three MPs, but that they would prepare themselves for European Parliament and Viennese state elections in 2009 instead and announce their support for another party in September; they announced their support for the SPÖ, the Greens and the LIF on 23 September 2008. []

A movement called "I DON'T VOTE" ("ICH WÄHLE NICHT") wanted to participate in order for non-voters to have an effect on the election outcome, as well. It wanted to reform the electoral law so that an amount of the seats proportional to the rate of abstention would be left empty. []

The minor joke political party Certainly – Absolutely – Independent ("Sicher – Absolut – Unabhängig" or "SAU", which means "sow"; led by Franz Radinger, a municipal councillor from Steindorf am Ossiacher See), which had received 1,514 votes in Carintia in the 2006 election, also wanted to contest the 2008 election, again only in Carinthia. [] He withdrew on 21 August 2008 after the 200 signatures he had collected were refused due to new, stricter rules regarding the acceptance of notarially certified signatures.

The only other relevant group which had stood in the last election, the anti-EU movement Neutral Free Austria ("Neutrales Freies Österreich"), decided not to contest the election and to build up its organisational structures for the next elections instead. []

Analyses and forecasts

Analysts and pollsters offered different opinions on whether smaller extraparliamentary parties had chances to enter parliament or not. [] According to some pollsters, the FRITZ had very good chances of getting into parliament, and the LIF with its founder Schmidt as its leading candidate, as well; [] the conditions were as good as they had never been before for smaller parties, according to some. [] Analysts agreed that apart from LIF and FRITZ, all others would fail to enter parliament. [] Analysts furthermore asserted that the candidacy of the FRITZ would likely make the race for third place between Greens and FPÖ very competitive, as the FRITZ would likely gain protest votes which would otherwise go to the FPÖ. [] The critical time for the extraparliamentary parties was stated to be the very first phase of the campaign, when the larger parties had not yet really started campaigning and the smaller parties had a chance to gain publicity. []

Following the announcement that Haider would return to federal politics, analysts held different opinions on the likely effects of this change. While the race for swing voters between ÖVP, FPÖ and BZÖ was seen to intensify, it was also remarked that Haider has lost much of his appeal and that it would be unlikely that the BZÖ would increase its share of votes just because of his candidacy. The race for third place between the Greens and the FPÖ was seen to be balanced (as Haider might draw votes from the FPÖ and the LIF from the Greens) or slightly in favour of the Greens. One analyst even expected that Haider would attempt to get the FPÖ to adopt a partner relationship with the BZÖ (similar to the Christian Democratic UnionChristian Social Union of Bavaria alliance in Germany), with the BZÖ only operating in Carinthia and the FPÖ in the rest of Austria, after the 2008 election. [] Stadler confirmed that this was the goal of the BZÖ. Strache explicitly ruled out such an alliance on 7 September 2008. []

Four weeks before the election, analysts agreed that the climate was very good for the SPÖ following Faymann's announcement that he would take measures against rising prices, although they also cautioned that the SPÖ's victory was not yet a done deal. [] The FPÖ was seen as strongly increasing their share of the votes when compared to the 2006 election and the BZÖ was seen as having secured its stay in the National Council. The Greens were seen to be stagnating, while the extraparliamentary parties faced difficulties with entering parliament, with the chances of LIF and the FRITZ intact. []

Former ÖVP leader Wolfgang Schüssel claimed on 4 September 2008 the ÖVP's low numbers in the polls were due to the large number of parties contesting the election and denied that the ÖVP had made mistakes in their election campaign so far. [] Analysts asserted that the Greens' decision to strongly support the animal rights activists remanded in custody under controversial circumstances (see above) might be risky, but that it might pay off through the increased publicity and mobilisation of core voters. []

Only four possible coalitions were seen as likely to have a majority after the election: SPÖ–ÖVP, ÖVP–FPÖ–BZÖ, SPÖ–GRÜNE–BZÖ and SPÖ–FPÖ–BZÖ; all but a new grand coalition were seen as unlikely. []

Parties' status

;Contesting the election
* Social Democratic Party of Austria
* Austrian People's Party
* The Greens – The Green Alternative
* Freedom Party of Austria
* Alliance for the Future of Austria
* Liberal Forum
* Citizens' Forum Austria
* Communist Party of Austria
* Save Austria
* The Christians
* Left (Burgenland, Salzburg, Tyrol, Upper Austria, Vienna)
* Animal Rights Party (Vienna)
* Karlheinz Klement (Carinthia)
* List Strong (Carinthia);Failed to gather the required signatures
* Black-Yellow Alliance
* Pirate Party of Austria
* Solidary Culture of Austria
* Humans Austria
* WE
* Democratic Diversity of Austria
* plattform-"direkt".at (Vienna)
* The Whites of Austria
* Certainly – Absolutely – Independent (Carinthia);Declined to run
* Hans-Peter Martin's List
* Neutral Free Austria
* Party3


Inflation, rising prices, transport

Inflation was seen as a major election topic. Discussions over solutions to the problem of rising prices began back in February 2008. Gusenbauer proposed to support households with €100 as an offset to the rising prices (known as the "Gusi-Hunderter"); the ÖVP was against this proposal and supported the abolishment of charges instead.] In the end, the coalition compromised by increasing the mileage allowance ("Kilometergeld") and the commuter lump sum payment ("Pendlerpauschale") and by lowering the unemployed contribution ("Arbeitslosenbeiträge") for those who earn least. Furthermore, the cost of the autobahn vignette was not raised, which relieved Austrian motorists by at least €8.4 million.

The ÖVP saw the lowering of brokerage commissions and the charges for arrears letters of debt collection agencies and winter fuel payments for lower-income households as appropriate measures against the inflation. The SPÖ proposed a stricter controlling of prices in addition to the reduction of brokerage commissions. FPÖ and BZÖ saw the main problem in the rising fuel prices; the FPÖ demanded a ceiling price for fuel, while the BZÖ in addition wanted to reduce taxes on fuels. The BZÖ announced a people's initiative ("Volksbegehren") calling for a stop to rising prices (by capping the price of fuel and reducing taxes on fuel, drugs and food); however, due to the necessary timeframe, the period during which people would be able to sign for the initiative would only start after the election, thus limiting its potential impact. [] "Ecology against inflation" was the concept proposed by the Greens; the Greens wanted to facilitate the changeover to renewable energy in order to reduce energy prices. The Greens stated that the rising oil price, which was the main reason for the high inflation, [] , would quickly nullify other attempts at relief (like tax reductions, winter fuel payments or a higher commuter lump sum payment). The lower inflation would also come at a high cost through a higher trade deficit. In contrast, the Greens called for a conversion of oil and gas heating to wood heatings and for a prescribed redevelopment of badly insulated residential houses to reduce energy consumption and thereby costs. [] On 25 August 2008, the Greens called for a strong increase in funding for public transport, for a nation-wide lorry toll and for a moratorium on road construction. []

Parliamentary sessions in September 2008

A special parliamentary session was to take place in mid-September 2008, shortly before a regular parliamentary session on 24 September 2008 (in order to pass laws before the election, they had to be introduced in a first session and a assigned to a committee, whereupon they could then be passed in the second session). [] The SPÖ announced on 25 August 2008 that it would like to vote on a number of measures against the rising prices before the election, revoking the "Stillhalteabkommen" with the ÖVP: the halving of value added tax on food, a reduction of the payroll tax, an additional thirteenth family subsidy in October and an increase of home care subsidies. The SPÖ explained its step with the reluctance and refusal of the ÖVP to constructively negotiate on a package of measures against the rising prices. The Greens also called for a vote on abolishing university tuition fees, which the SPÖ had previously refused to do when it still considered itself bound to the "Stillhalteabkommen". [] Faymann became more specific later on the same day, saying that the SPÖ would propose five measures against the rising prices in the session (with some of them previously coordinated with the ÖVP) in what was called a five-point plan; these included three of the above (all except the reduction of the payroll tax) an extension of the special retirement scheme for manual workers ("Hacklerregelung") until 2013 and the abolishment of university tuition fees. Faymann stated he didn't expect the ÖVP to seek revenge by supporting the motion of no confidence against Darabos (see below). []

Reactions of other parties were mixed: The ÖVP strongly criticised Faymann's decision to revoke the agreement and announced it would also consider outvoting the SPÖ on other issues such as security and immigration, [] likely with the support of FPÖ and BZÖ. [] The FPÖ stated it did not believe that the SPÖ would actually outvote the ÖVP before the election but indicated support for some of the measures, [] but later Strache said he had a number of problems with the proposals and that the FPÖ would not support them unless talks would be held over the precise wording and content of the measures; for instance, Strache called for university tuition fees to be abolished only for European Union citizens, for an end to compulsory membership in the Austrian National Union of Students ("Österreichische Hochschülerinnen- und Hochschülerschaft") and for the halving of VAT on food not to apply to luxury goods like caviar, and furthermore called for a reduction of the mineral oil tax and for elimination of VAT on medication. []] The Greens announced they would support all five proposals except the halving of VAT on food, which they considered not to be an effective measure against the rising prices. [] The BZÖ was strongly against most of the proposed measures (especially the elimination of university tuition fees), but voiced support for the extension of the "Hacklerregelung". [] [] The BZÖ later stated it wanted a halving of VAT on medication, as well, and wanted to be recognised as a possible coalition partner by the SPÖ. The SPÖ initially stated it refused secret negotiations with the other parties and package deals, and that whoever wanted the proposals should vote for them as proposed by the SPÖ, [] but later stated it was willing to sit down and talk with Strache and Haider, if necessary. [] In a poll from 27 August 2008, 74% of respondents in principle agreed with Faymann's proposals. []

At a meeting between Faymann and Molterer on 28 August 2008, the two agreed on a common proposal regarding home care subsidies and decided to seek further talks on the family subsidy increase. They also agreed to hold consultations on the precise date of the special parliamentary session. The ÖVP stated that it would present its own proposal regarding the extension of the "Hacklerregelung", however, and would not agree to the elimination of university tuition fees nor the halving of VAT on food. [] []

Under EU rules, there can only be two reduced VAT rates from the general minimum VAT of 15% (both of which have to be above a minimum of 5%). As of 2008, there were reduced VAT rates of 12% for yard sale wine and 10% for food, rent, books, works of art and flowers; should the VAT on food be reduced to 5%, the reduced VAT on yard sale wine would either have to be abolished or reduced further to 10%, according to some; [] however, a reduction to 10% is impossible as the minimum VAT for yard sale wine is 12%, which is itself an exemption from the general rule banning VAT reductions for alcoholic beverages. [] The SPÖ argued that the reduced VAT rate for yard sale wine was a special exemption agreed upon in the Act of Accession and did therefore not qualify as the second reduced VAT rate; the ÖVP-led financy ministry claimed that this exemption had been converted into Austria's official second reduced VAT rate since the accession, [] and this was confirmed on 8 September 2008 by the spokeswoman of the European Commission. []

Faymann announced he would be holding talks with the other parties in the week of 8 September14 September 2008, but ruled out acquiescing to the FPÖ's demands regarding the abolition of university tuition fees only for Austrians or the reduction of VAT on medication. [] Faymann met with Strache on 8 September 2008, which the ÖVP criticised as "being the first step to an SPÖ–FPÖ coalition". [] On 9 September 2008, Faymann announced he was considering exempting luxury goods from the reduction of the VAT on food and also reducing the VAT on medication, in a compromise move to secure the agreement of the FPÖ and the BZÖ. [] The ÖVP and the Greens strongly criticised the SPÖ for this move. []

The SPÖ officially brought forward the motion for the special session on 9 September 2008 and wanted the special parliamentary session to take place on 12 September 2008, while the ÖVP preferred 15 September 2008 or 17 September 2008 (the latest possible date); [] it was assumed at that point that the halving of value added tax on food and medication would pass with the votes of the FPÖ and the BZÖ after the SPÖ's compromise on luxury goods and medication, that the increase of home care subsidies would pass with the votes of the ÖVP, the "Hacklerregelung" extension with the votes of the FPÖ and the BZÖ and the additional thirteenth family subsidy in October with the votes of all parties. The passage of the abolition of university tuition fees was not certain, but it was reported that the SPÖ might agree to a compromise by abolishing it only for European Union citizens and halving it for all foreigners, with exceptions for students who took to long with their studies. [] [] President of the National Council Barbara Prammer (SPÖ) on 10 September 2008 set the date of the special session for 12 September 2008 as preferred by the SPÖ and the FPÖ but against the wishes of the ÖVP, the Greens and the BZÖ, who strongly criticised Prammer's decision. [] On 11 September 2008, the ÖVP announced it would present its own motions in two cases instead of supporting the SPÖ's proposals, despite the ÖVP mostly agreeing in their positions; the ÖVP's extension of the "Hacklerregelung" foresees a longer transitional arrangement until 2023, however. The ÖVP did not explain why it wanted to introduce a motion which was nearly identical to the SPÖ's regarding the thirteenth family subsidy. [] The Greens stated they would introduce a number of motions, including one calling for a month of paternity leave ("Papamonat") [] and two motions calling for same-sex marriage and civil unions (for both heterosexual and homosexual couples). [] The FPÖ and the BZÖ also announced the introduction of a large number of measures. []

At the special parliamentary session on 12 September 2008, twenty-six motions were approved, which means they were forwarded to the responsible parliamentary committee and will be up for a vote on 24 September 2008. They included: [] [] []
* all motions of Faymann's five-point plan (SPÖ, together with others),
* separate motions on the "Hacklerregelung" and the thirteenth family subsidy (ÖVP),
* making the appointment of a committee of inquiry a parliamentary minority right (Greens),
* a reduction of the Austrian Chamber of Labour apportionment ("Arbeiterkammer-Umlage") (BZÖ),
* an income-contingent maternity/paternity leave subsidy (ÖVP and Greens),
* the reduction of VAT on medication (BZÖ),
* a nationally valid ticket for public transport ("Österreich-Ticket") (ÖVP),
* increasing federal subsidies for public transport (Greens),
* making referendums on new EU treaties mandatory (FPÖ).

The motion on halving VAT on food was only passed because a few ÖVP and Green MPs happened to be absent from the session at the time of the vote, a fact which Schüssel was verbosely irate about. []

At the regular parliamentary session on 24 September 2008, all motions of Faymann's five-point plan were approved except for the halving of VAT on food; both the SPÖ's and the ÖVP's motion on the "Hacklerregelung" were approved and it was not immediately clear what legal effect that would have, as they partially contradicted each other. The reduction of VAT on medication (from 20% to 10%) was also approved. The committee of inquiry motion was approved, but will have to be taken up by the next parliament as a change in parliamentary law; similarly, the income-contingent maternity/paternity leave subsidy was approved, but will have to be taken up by the next parliament. The reduction of the "Arbeiterkammer-Umlage" failed, as did free pulic transport and mandatory referendums on EU treaties (which lacked the necessary two-thirds majority, as the ÖVP and the Greens voted against it). [] The laws that were passed still had to be confirmed by the Federal Council, although the Federal Council can not actually veto any motions passed by the National Council.

In a last-minute move, the ÖVP tried to delay the abolition of university tuition fees by proposing a referendum on the issue, but this was voted down. []

Referendum on future treaties of the European Union

One of the main reasons cited by the ÖVP as grounds for causing a snap election was the change in the SPÖ's stance on the ratification of future treaties of the European Union. In a letter addressed to Hans Dichand and printed in his newspaper, the "Kronen Zeitung", the SPÖ explained the new position as follows: "We are of the opinion that, on the basis of continuous information and an open discussion, future treaty changes which affect Austrian interests should be decided on in a referendum in Austria." ("Auf der Basis einer kontinuierlichen Information und einer offenen Diskussion sind wir der Meinung, dass zukünftige Vertragsänderungen, die die österreichischen Interessen berühren, durch eine Volksabstimmung in Österreich entschieden werden sollen.") [] When the Treaty of Lisbon had been ratified in parliament in April 2008, the SPÖ had defended the solely parliamentary ratification.

Apart from the ÖVP, the Greens also criticised the new SPÖ position on the EU, pointing out that the "Kronen Zeitung" regularly shored up opposition and irrational fears of the EU in the Austrian population. Member of the European Parliament Johannes Voggenhuber accused the SPÖ of "forming an axis with those groups which try to obstruct European integration through referendums." (" [...] eine Achse mit jenen Gruppen zu bilden, die versuchen, mit der Volksabstimmung die europäische Integration zu behindern."). []

FPÖ and BZÖ, which had demanded a referendum before the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, claimed that the SPÖ was untrustworthy, as it had just ratified the Treaty of Lisbon in parliament without a referendum. FPÖ leader Strache claimed in this context that the SPÖ had conducted "politics against the Austrian population" ("Politik gegen die eigene Bevölkerung"). []

Crime, integration and right to stay

Integration was also an important point in the election campaign. The Greens called for an unconditional right to stay ("Bleiberecht") for children and adolescents, [] while the ÖVP secretary-general Hannes Missethon announced a campaign against asylum abuse; it was remarked that the ÖVP appeared to lead an anti-immigration campaign in order to gain votes from voters sympathetic to FPÖ and BZÖ, [] although the ÖVP criticised Strache's calls for only two health insurances organisations (one for Austrians, one for immmigrants) as "completely absurd" and "polemic. []

In July 2008, Carinthian governor Jörg Haider (BZÖ) repeatedly came into conflitct with interior minister Maria Fekter (ÖVP) when he tried to remove asylum seekers from Carinthia to other states, which was a clear violation of Carinthia's obligations to the federal state; Haider claimed that all of the asylum seekers in question were criminals, but this turned out to be untrue. [] Green MP Peter Pilz stated he would report Haider to the police for abuse of position and divulging official secrets, as there were indications that Haider publicised information from the "EKIS" police information system. []

Fekter proposed on 7 August 2008 to introduce the expression "cultural offence" ("Kulturdelikt") for crimes which are a tradition in some immigrants' home countries (like honour killings, female genital cutting and forced marriage) in order to put a strong emphasis on the sense of right and wrong, which she claimed was often not present in the perpetrators of such crimes. [] She was heavily criticised by SPÖ justice minister Berger and a number of NGO spokespersons. []

The Greens proposed on 9 September 2008 that all children born to parents who are legally staying in Austria should be given Austrian citizenship; they also called for an increase in assistance for German language courses. []

On 11 September 2008, justice minister Berger and interior minister Fekter agreed on the "Gewaltschutzpaket", a package of measures increasing protection for victims of crimes and stricter punishments for sex offenders (including employment bans and a national register of sex offenders). The ministers hoped the package would be passed by the newly elected National Council while the new government was being formed. []

Kindergarten and compulsory education

A topic of discussion was the affordability and availability of kindergartens. The SPÖ had long called for subsidising the last year of kindergarten so that parents would not have to pay for it, while at the same time making it compulsory (hitherto the last year of kindergarten was only compulsory for children who are diagnosed with speech deficiencies). While the ÖVP had long been against this demand, Molterer changed his mind and announced on 4 August 2008 that he supported a compulsory and cost-free last kindergarten year. [] Molterer had to convince the ÖVP sections in the nine states of this change [] which he did by 7 August 2008. [] The SPÖ responded positively to Molterer's change of mind, while the opposition parties criticised Molterer for suddenly agreeing with the SPÖ after having obstructed the government for so long. []

Mayor and governor of Vienna Michael Häupl had earlier called for antedating compulsory education instead, introducing a compulsory year of pre-school before primary school and abolishing the compulsory ninth year of education; [] his proposal did not meet with much approval, however, and experts stated that the European trend was going in the other direction (lengthening compulsory education to keep teenagers in the education system for a longer time). [] Styria had decided in late July 2008 to subsidise kindergartens in Styria, making them completely cost-free. [] The Greens called for mirroring this in all of Austria, providing free child care for children aged one year or older; the costs of €400 million would have to be born by the federal state. [
] []

Privatisation of Austrian Airlines

While Austrian Airlines CEO Alfred Ötsch called for retaining the independence of Austrian Airlines (AUA), he changed his mind once Saudi Arabian investor Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber decided not to go through with his plans to invest €150 million into the corporation. [] Due to the worsening situation for airlines it is now seen as necessary to find a strong partner for the AUA; airlines which had expressed an interest include Lufthansa, Air France–KLM, Aeroflot, Royal Jordanian, Air China, Turkish Airlines and Singapore Airlines (though Aeroflot has since rejected investing into the AUA). In order for the investment plans to go through, the outgoing government had to agree to give the "Österreichische Industrieholding AG" (ÖIAG) the mandate to privatise; SPÖ and ÖVP disagreed, however, how much of the 42.75% of AUA shares the ÖIAG holds should be offered for sale. The SPÖ insisted on retaining a blocking minority of 25% plus one share, as Faymann voiced fears that the position of Vienna International Airport as the main hub for Eastern Europe and the Balkans might otherwise be endangered; while the ÖVP agreed that it would be preferable to retain a blocking minority, it did not see this as a condition for the privatisation and preferred to give the ÖIAG a broad mandate for privatisation so that the best partner airline could be found; economy minister Martin Bartenstein voiced his preference for a sale to Lufthansa, which had stated it was only interested in a complete acquisition of the AUA. At a meeting on 5 August 2008 it was agreed that a blocking minority would have to remain in Austrian hands, but that this did not necessarily mean that the shares had to be held by the ÖIAG; the blocking minority shares could also be bought by Austrian corporations. [] The Greens criticised the solution as a botch-up typical of the grand coalition, claiming that either the ÖIAG should keep the blocking minority or noone at all and also alluding to possible cases of favouritism towards industralists close to SPÖ and ÖVP; both the Greens and the FPÖ called for the resignation of Ötsch and ÖIAG director Peter Michaelis, and the FPÖ proposed that Vienna International Airport should instead buy a blocking minority of the AUA shares. The BZÖ supported the agreement between SPÖ and ÖVP and claimed to have proposed a solution with a strategic partner for the AUA long before, even when all other parties had called for stand-alone solution. []

Lufthansa announced on 7 August 2008 that it was interested in the AUA despite the blocking minority clause. [] The Raiffeisen Zentralbank, the Oberbank and industrialist Hannes Androsch stated they are not interested in increasing their shares of the AUA, while the Vienna Insurance Group was considering this; it thus appeared that the ÖIAG might have to hold most of its shares in order for Austria to hold a blocking minority. [] The official decision to give the ÖIAG a mandate to privatise the AUA was made at a cabinet meeting on 12 August 2008. []

Five airlines were initially reported to be actually interested in the AUA (Lufthansa, Air France–KLM, Turkish Airlines, Air China and S7 Airlines, a former Aeroflot subsidiary); other airlines likely also requested material necessary for bidding in attempts to obtain information about a competing company. [;2027474] [] [] So far, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and S7 Airlines have confirmed the reports about their interests. [] British Airways was announced on 29 August 2008 to be among the twelve potential buyers, as well. The first concepts had to be submitted by 12 September 2008 and binding offers by 21 October 2008, with the actual decision to be made on 28 October 2008. [] Turkish Airlines missed one of the first deadlines and thus dropped out, [] while Air China could not cope with the strict timetable; four airlines submitted preliminary by 12 September 2008 (Lufthansa, Air France–KLM, British Airways and S7 Airlines), of which three were then put on the shortlist. [] Reportedly, S7 Airlines offered the highest bid, Lufthansa and Air France–KLM offered less and British Airways declined to submit a binding offer. []

Budgets, TV schedule, fairness accord

The parties have announced the following budgets for election campaigning: [] []]

* Westenthaler was polled instead of Haider before it was announced that Westenthaler would not be the leading candidate.

;"Koalitionsfrage" (coalition question)

;"Koalitionsfrage" (coalition question)

Election day

Ballots and voting

For the first time in the history of Austrian elections, there will be different ballots in all nine states (in 2002 there were three different ballots, in 2006 there were seven). The ballots feature parliamentary parties in the order of votes they received in the last election, i.e. SPÖ, ÖVP, Greens, FPÖ, BZÖ. The extraparliamentary parties are listed in the order in which they submitted their state candidate lists, and this order was different in all nine states; Dinkhauser, for instance, wanted the FRITZ to be the last on the ballot in all nine states, but the Left (in Burgenland and Tyrol) and the Christians (in Salzburg) submitted their lists after he did. The longest ballots could be found in Carinthia and Vienna, which broke the previous record of eleven lists (Vorarlberg, 1994) with twelve lists. Burgenland, Salzburg, Tyrol and Upper Austria had eleven lists, and Lower Austria, Styria and Vorarlberg had only the ten national lists on the ballot. []

National candidate lists had to be submitted by 8 September 2008 and were published on 12 September 2008 in the "Wiener Zeitung"; all lists except STARK and Klement submitted national candidate lists. []

Voting booths closed at 13:00 in Vorarlberg, at 16:00 in Carinthia, Styria and Upper Austria, at 16:30 in Burgenland and at 17:00 in Lower Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol and Vienna. []

Results and reactions

Josef Pröll (ÖVP)
Eva Glawischnig (Greens)
Stefan Petzner (BZÖ)

The election saw a historically low turnout. Both the SPÖ and the ÖVP had the worst result in history, while the combined so-called "third camp" ("drittes Lager", consisting of the FPÖ and the BZÖ) had the best result the far right has had in the Second Austrian Republic, very nearly gaining a plurality of seats if taken together. The Greens suffered slight losses, while neither the LIF nor the Citizens' Forum Austria crossed the electoral threshold of 4%. Government formation was expected to be very difficult and take a long time as both the SPÖ and the ÖVP had to assess and analyze their losses and decide on a course of action. [] The primary motive for the people who voted for the far right parties was dissatisfaction with the governing parties, which was summarised by "Der Standard" as "angry voters voting for angry parties". []

The SPÖ lost many voters to the FPÖ, while the ÖVP lost many voters to the BZÖ. The Greens lost a few voters to the LIF, and all three parties lost voters to the non-voters. [] Neither the SPÖ nor the FPÖ changed their positions after the election; the SPÖ reiterated it would never enter into a coalition with the FPÖ and the BZÖ, while the FPÖ did not waver in its stance of opposition to reunification with the BZÖ, although it toned down its rhetoric and stated it was open to closer cooperation. [] Nonetheless, many FPÖ voters and party members were reportedly strongly in favour of reunification; it was expected that Strache would have to reconsider his opposition to reunification in the months following the election. [] The CDU–CSU model proposed by some before the elections seemed to be off the table, as the BZÖ had strongly increased its share of the vote outside Carinthia, as well; on the other hand, the FPÖ had an increased incentive to reach such a cooperation, as it would free up BZÖ voters for the FPÖ outside Carinthia. [] On 6 October 2008, Haider stated he was against a reunification, as the two parties had developed into different directions and could gain more votes separately than reunified. []

Analysts expected Molterer to step down, with the ÖVP taking a pivotal role in the coalition negotiations; under Josef Pröll, it was expected to take part in a renewed grand coalition, trying to win back the voters' confidence, while under another new chairman, it was considered possible the ÖVP could form a right-wing coalition with the FPÖ and the BZÖ. [] Johannes Hahn and Maria Fekter had been mentioned as possible alternatives to Molterer; a party leadership meeting was held on 29 September 2008. [] As expected by many, Molterer stepped down and Pröll became acting party chairman, and ÖVP secretary-general Missethon and many other prominent politicians from the Schüssel/Molterer era were also expected to be replaced. [] Pröll was to become party chairman at a party convention set for 28 November 2008 in Wels. [] Economy minister Bartenstein and former chancellor Schüssel became backbenchers, [] [] as they stated they would take up their seats in parliament but were not going to be elected or appointed to any important position. [] Pröll announced he would replace Schüssel as chairman of the ÖVP parliamentary group. [] ÖVP ministers Kdolsky (health) and Plassnik (foreign affairs) were also considered certain to leave politics; they were reportedly looking to work in the World Health Organization and Austrian ambassador to the United States, respectively. Social minister Buchinger from the SPÖ was assumed to be out of federal politics, as well, as he was seen as certain to be replaced by a trade unionist (Csörgits or Kuntzl, as mentioned before the election). []

Apart from a renewed grand coalition, some members of the SPÖ, the ÖVP and the Greens floated the possibilities of an SPÖ–ÖVP–Greens coalition (also called "Kenya coalition", referring to the party colours and the colours of the flag of Kenya), having the Greens act as a mediator between the two big parties. [] [] [] A right-wing ÖVP–FPÖ–BZÖ coalition, an SPÖ minority government, an SPÖ–FPÖ coalition, an SPÖ–BZÖ–Greens or an ÖVP–BZÖ–Greens coalition were also seen as possibilities, although unlikely ones. [] [] [] The FPÖ and the BZÖ explicitly declared they were not willing to offer their support to an SPÖ minority government. []

The Greens held a party leadership meeting on 30 September 2008; despite the slight losses the Greens suffered, Van der Bellen did not step down, as he was nonetheless regarded as enjoying strong support from both party members and voters; the Greens did not rule out a Kenya coalition or supporting a minority government under some circumstances. [] [] It was expected that Van der Bellen would step down at a later date. [] Van der Bellen resigned on 3 October 2008 and was provisionally replaced by Eva Glawischnig, who had long been considered his designated successor; she was to be confirmed as federal spokeswoman at a party congress in January 2009. Van der Bellen said he would remain an MP. Van der Bellen's resignation came as a surprise, as he was assumed to continue as federal spokesman for a few more months before resigning. []

The SPÖ and the FPÖ also held party leadership meetings on 30 September 2008. [] The FPÖ rejected conducting secret negotiations with either the SPÖ or the ÖVP, calling on both parties to declare openly if they wanted to have them as a coalition partner; Strache stated, however, that he would set strict coalition conditions, including holding referendums on the accession of Turkey to the European Union and the Treaty of Lisbon and restricting social benefits to Austrian citizens, which made coalitions with either the SPÖ or the ÖVP highly unlikely. [] Faymann stated that he was not interested in a Kenya coalition, as a coalition with three partners was only likely to be more difficult to manage than one with two partners. [] Pröll declared his opposition to both a Kenya coalition and a right-wing coalition with the FPÖ and the BZÖ, leaving the ÖVP with only the possibilities of a grand coalition or the opposition; [] the party membership was largely undecided between the two options. [] On 2 October 2008, a conflict arose between the SPÖ and the ÖVP regarding referendums on future EU treaties, as the SPÖ wanted to at least not rule out the possibility in a coalition agreement, which the ÖVP refused to accept under any circumstances. []

The FPÖ won back the post of third president of the National Council from the Greens. Three people were primarily mentioned as likely to replace Eva Glawischnig in that position: education spokesman Martin Graf, justice spokesman Peter Fichtenbauer and Lower Austrian FPÖ leader Barbara Rosenkranz.] Graf was nominated on 30 September 2008. While the Greens stated they opposed Graf's nomination because of Graf's position as chairman of the nationalist "Burschenschaft" "Olympia", the other parties initially stated they would approve his nomination. [] After some SPÖ MPs also voiced their reservations about Graf, presidents of the National Council Barbara Prammer (SPÖ) and Michael Spindelegger (ÖVP) stated they would seek personal talks with Graf before his nomination. []

All parties except for the ÖVP supported making the appointment of a committee of inquiry a parliamentary minority right; as the ÖVP had fewer than a third of the MPs, it was technically possible for the other four parties to outvote it on amending parliamentary law, but it was unclear whether the other parties wanted to set a precedent by using this option. []

Both Schmidt and Haselsteiner declared that their political activities were completely over. Nonetheless, many party members and supporters called for the LIF to continue its work; the fate of the LIF was to be decided at a party convention on 25 October 2008. [] [] []

BZÖ leader and Carinthian governor Jörg Haider died in a car accident in Köttmannsdorf near Klagenfurt in the state of Carinthia in the early hours of 11 October 2008. Police reported that the Volkswagen Phaeton that Haider had been driving came off the road, rolled down an embankment and overturned, [] causing him "severe head and chest injuries". [BBC [ Austria's Haider dies in accident] 11 October 2008 ] Haider, who was on his way to a family gathering in honour of his mother's 90th birthday, [] was alone in the government car and no other vehicles were involved. [] An initial investigation uncovered no signs of foul play, [] but police assume that Haider must have been driving at a far higher speed than the 70 km/h allowed at the location of the accident. [] Countless leading Austrian politicians and former politicians from all parties expressed their condolences. [] Deputy governor Gerhard Dörfler (also from the BZÖ) took over as acting governor of Carinthia, while BZÖ general-secretary Stefan Petzner was seen as acting BZÖ leader. [] There were rumours that Haider's death would facilitate the reunification of the FPÖ and the BZÖ, enabling Strache to make a bid for power. [] Lothar Höbelt, a historian known to be close to the "third camp", stated that the BZÖ would be unlikely to survive without Haider and that the ÖVP could possibly gain back voters from the BZÖ if they played their cards right and forged a right-wing coalition; in the case of a renewed grand coalition, Höbelt expected most BZÖ voters to go to the FPÖ. []

Government formation

President Fischer gave Faymann the mandate to form a government on 8 October 2008. [] At the same time, Pröll stated he was still seeking talks with all other parties, and both Strache and Haider stated that a right-wing ÖVP–FPÖ–BZÖ coalition would be possible if the ÖVP wanted it. [] Furthermore, both Pröll and Haider expressed their interest in an ÖVP–BZÖ–Greens coalition, [] [] but Glawischnig stated the Greens would under no circumstances be part of a coalition which included the FPÖ or the BZÖ. []


External links

* "Bundesministerium für Inneres": [ Information on the 2008 National Council election]
* ORF: [ Site of the ORF on the 2008 National Council election]
* FM4: [ Site of FM4 on the 2008 National Council election]
* " [ Neuwal] ": blog with interviews, polls and commentaries (Neuwal, "early whale", is a pun on "Neuwahl", "early election".)

;Political parties
* [ Social Democratic Party of Austria ("Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs")]
*: [ Werner Faymann's website]
* [ Austrian People's Party ("Österreichische Volkspartei")]
*: [ Wilhelm Molterer's website]
* [ The Greens – The Green Alternative ("Die Grünen – Die Grüne Alternative")]
*: [ Alexander Van der Bellen's website]
* [ Freedom Party of Austria ("Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs")]
*: [ Heinz-Christian Strache's website]
* [ Alliance for the Future of Austria ("Bündnis Zukunft Österreich")]
* [ Liberal Forum ("Liberales Forum")]
*: [ Heide Schmidt's website]
*: supported by [ Unity List ("Enotna lista"/"Einheitsliste")]
* [ Citizens' Forum Austria ("Bürgerforum Österreich")]
* [ Communist Party of Austria ("Kommunistische Partei Österreichs")]
* [ Save Austria ("Rettet Österreich")]
* [ The Christians ("Die Christen")]
* [ Left ("Linke")]
* [ Animal Rights Party ("Tierrechtspartei")]
* [ Dipl.-Ing. Karlheinz Klement]
* [ Black-Yellow Alliance ("Schwarz-Gelbe Allianz")]
* [ Pirate Party of Austria ("Piratenpartei Österreichs")]
* [ Humans Austria ("Menschen Österreich")]
* [ WE ("WIR")]
* [ Democratic Diversity of Austria ("Demokratische Diversität Österreichs")]
* [ plattform-"direkt".at]
* [ The Whites of Austria ("Die Weißen Österreichs")]
* [ Certainly – Absolutely – Independent ("Sicher – Absolut – Unabhängig")]
* [ Dr Martin's List ("Liste Dr. Martin")]
* [ Neutral Free Austria ("Neutrales Freies Österreich")]
* [ Party3 ("Partei3")]

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