Being a top candidate is a different league. Anton Mattle, honest, long-serving mayor from Galtür in the rear Paznauntal in Tyrol and Economic Provincial Councilor for a year, has been the face of the ÖVP to the outside world since June. He was enthroned as the new Tyrolean ÖVP boss for the state elections that were brought forward on Sunday by the surprise action of the outgoing governor Günther Platter.
His likeness with the words “straight ahead” is emblazoned on the tour bus. Of course, polls for the ÖVP went straight downhill to a plateau of around a quarter of the votes. It was no longer possible to talk away how much trust had fallen after 44 percent in the 2018 state election. Since then, the People’s Party has been “catching up”.
In the final election campaign, the gnarly ÖVP top candidate is convinced that he will get more than 30 percent. But that would be below the worst ÖVP result so far in the 2008 election with 39 percent. Winning back the trust that had been lost with the almost newcomer to the state government – especially during the Corona period – was ÖVP calculations. Mattle now locates trust on his election tour. But the 59-year-old, who, like his competitor from the green coalition partner Gebi Mair, is in the mountain rescue service, saves the ÖVP from falling, according to surveys it is not enough.
Vienna as a welcome friction surface
An aid package for the labor market was put together in mid-August, and later 40 million euros were paid out as a special dividend from the energy supplier Tiwag to cushion inflation. So it was a good thing that Mattle is the head of the supervisory board.
In the tradition of other state politicians, he also unpacked the saber against Red Vienna. The reason was the federal government’s two billion aid for the city’s own Wien Energie, which had slipped into financial problems. “It must be clear that not those federal states whose energy suppliers have operated prudently have to pay for the difficulties of the energy suppliers in the east,” said Mattle. The billions in aid flowed anyway, but the Tyroleans should also benefit from the federal electricity price brake. Even the federal party was not spared. A 500-euro climate bonus for asylum seekers is a “fatal signal,” said the Tyrolean party. This placed itself behind the line of the then ÖVP General Secretary Laura Sachslehner, while the federal ÖVP with chairman Chancellor Karl Nehammer stood by the regulation decided with the Greens.
Unlike the new Styrian ÖVP country chief Christopher Drexler, the Tyrolean frontman is not a big speaker. What surprised Mattle the most was when he had a legal entitlement to childcare written into the election program from the age of two. That, too, was outside the negative line of the federal party.
Nevertheless, the ÖVP top candidate always saw himself on the defensive. He was the point of friction for everyone, including the green coalition partner. Be it because of the increase in trucks roaring through Tyrol, because of a lack of wind turbines or because of the impression that the cable car lobby sometimes goes sledding with the state party. The fact that he canceled an interview at short notice as part of the series of Tyrolean top candidates on ORF radio was also not a signal that a self-confident top candidate was at work here. Even with a deep ÖVP fall on Sunday, Mattle does not want to give up. “Even in difficult times, Toni Mattle takes responsibility,” he said recently in the ORF TV confrontation of the top candidates.
Uncertainty as to whether a two-party coalition is possible
The threatening strong shrinking of the ÖVP in the state elections is also the reason that the question of the future coalition after eight years of black-green in Tyrol has triggered most of the guesswork. Mattle, who is well respected personally, even has to listen to political competitors prophesy that after an ÖVP election debacle on Sunday, others will take over the reins in Innsbruck.
Even if a political “break” is expected in Tyrol on Sunday, it is unlikely that the next governor will not come from the ÖVP. Because there will hardly be a majority for it. While the election loser is certain, it will only be decided on Sunday whether a second party with the ÖVP will have a majority in the state parliament.