The New Observer
May 10, 2016
Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann has resigned following a revolt from inside his Socialist Democratic Party—and a new poll indicates that the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) is on its way to a crushing victory in the second round of presidential elections.
The poll—conducted after the first live television debate between the FPÖ’s Norbert Hofer and the Green-communist Alexander Van Der Bellen—showed that 64 percent now favor Hofer.
Faymann’s resignation—which the FPÖ described as a “beautiful day for Austria”—came after his party’s defeat by the FPÖ in the first round of the presidential elections last month, where the SPÖ candidate polled so few votes that he did not make it into the second round.
Following that result, internal opposition to Faymann within the SPÖ boiled over into open revolt. Faymann cited his lack of support within the party as the reason for his resignation.
“Do I have full cover … strong support within the party? I must say the answer is no,” Faymann said. “I draw the consequences from this low level of support and step down from my positions as party leader and federal chancellor.”
Faymann has come under pressure in his party over his policy of imposing tighter restrictions on “asylum seekers”—measures which have had little real substance to them but have been enough to fire up the far left of his party.
As the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and SPÖ are in official alliance, ÖVP Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner will now take over as interim chancellor until a new leader is elected by the coalition.
Mitterlehner said he saw no need for a snap election, but the internal dissension within the SPÖ over Faymann’s policy of trying to outmaneuver the FPÖ on the invasion issue may yet force a new election.
This possibility will be even greater, if, as is now widely expected, the FPÖ wins the second round of the Austrian presidential elections on May 22.
Mitterlehner has however left open the possibility for early elections by saying that his party would not automatically accept any SPÖ candidate as chancellor.
In his reaction, FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache said that Faymann’s resignation did “not solve the Social Democratic Party’s fundamental problem, which is a policy that is aimed away from people and from Austria.”