The Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) retained control of the regional parliament in Austria’s southern state of Carinthia, but the country’s high-flying FPÖ opposition party gained ground as its popularity continued to rise in Sunday’s election.
SPÖ secured 38.9 percent of the vote, down 9 percentage points from the 2018 election, while the anti-immigration FPÖ increased its vote share by 1.6 percent to 24.6 percent.
It’s the second time this year FPÖ has enjoyed electoral success in regional elections after increasing its vote count by 9 percentage points to secure 24.2 percent of the vote in the Lower Austria state election held in January.
The conservatives also stormed to second place in the Tyrol state election held in September last year, with the party getting 18.6 percent of the vote, up 3.3 percent.
The right-wing populists have campaigned vigorously against anti-Russian sanctions, Covid-19 lockdowns, and mass immigration.
“The tireless work for the benefit of the Carinthian population has paid off,” FPÖ party chairman Herbert Kickl said after Sunday’s result.
“I would like to sincerely thank the Carinthian FPÖ voters and congratulate Erwin Angerer and his team on the best result in the history of FPÖ Carinthia in the period after Jörg Haider.
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“People have felt who is really committed to the people of Carinthia and who, conversely, is doing everything to make the lives of our compatriots more and more difficult.
“After Tyrol and Lower Austria, FPÖ is also on the rise in Carinthia. This series of successes under different regional conditions gives a lot of confidence for the state elections in Salzburg in April and of course for the next national elections — whenever they take place,” he added.
FPÖ fared particularly well in areas with low Covid-19 vaccination uptake, reportedly taking almost 35 percent of the vote.
The state election made for miserable reading for the governing ÖVP and Green coalition, which received just 21 percent of the vote combined.
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The trend of decreasing popularity for the Austrian socialists gives FPÖ encouragement ahead of national elections due to be held next year, and the party’s leadership remains confident about a return to government.
“As FPÖ, we are continuously building trust at all political levels. I’m now looking forward to the next challenges in Salzburg and then, of course, to the upcoming National Council elections,” Kickl added.
In January, a national poll placed FPÖ as the top party in Austria for the first time in seven years.