strange thing happened. In Lower Austria, politicians are currently being asked about topics and trust levels. So far, so logical, because the state parliament will be elected on January 29th. What is interesting, however, is what is being asked. Of course, after the governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner, after ÖVP boss and Chancellor Karl Nehammer. And after Sebastian Kurz.
The Lower Austrian ÖVP state party says: This survey is not from us! The question of Kurz is actually not only relevant for the ÖVP: how much does the former turquoise light figure harm the People’s Party, how much does the chat and the investigations burden the ÖVP, how many fans are there? The survey is understandable for the political advisor Thomas Hofer – and it would also be for the ÖVP, since it allows conclusions to be drawn about the strategy. Do you have to distance yourself or should you rather not talk about it at all?
How the ÖVP wants to deal with its recent past has not yet been decided. The messages being sent are contradictory. At the beginning of November, there was Nehammer’s speech in the National Council, who said: “Anyone who messes around with taxpayers’ money has no business with us”. And he also apologized – albeit more or less for the opposition, which had put the issue on the agenda. In the previous week, the ÖVP ethics council recommended that Thomas Schmid be excluded from the party, but that was it. The committee did not say a word about obvious party bookkeeping.
On Wednesday, the ÖVP surprised by bringing back Gerald Fleischmann, one of Kurz’s closest associates since his beginnings in federal politics, and installing him as head of communications at party headquarters. Even the Carinthian ÖVP state party reacted with consternation, managing director Julia Löschnig told the APA that she was surprised, and further: “This is a decision that the federal government made that does not affect our work in the state. The federal party will know what she does.” Most national organizations did not want to comment on the personnel.
Fleischmann’s return is “devastating” for the Greens
But the coalition partner did react, even if only in writing. “The questionable image that this creates for the outside world is devastating.” And for the FPÖ it was a steep template anyway: “Not a bit of insight, not a trace of remorse. The extent of the moral neglect of the ÖVP keeps reaching new lows,” wrote the blue media spokesman Christian Hafenecker in a broadcast.
In the past few weeks, the People’s Party has proven that it currently has a communication deficit and can use know-how. For example, when club boss August Wöginger first launched a debate about the human rights convention, which the party then wanted to conduct only a little or not at all. And the interior minister and chancellor also recently contradicted each other on the question of Schengen expansion. It is the opposite of the “message control” that Fleischmann has always been credited with.
But his return, whether you like it or not, is also a message to the outside world. And maybe also a kind of preliminary decision on how the ÖVP wants to deal with the allegations and allegations and the constant criticism of the opposition. Because a clear end to the Kurz era cannot be sold with a Fleischmann communications manager. His expertise is likely to be more important for Nehammer.
Political advisor Hofer names three basic strategies. “First, wagon castle, second, dive through, and third, an offensive tactic.” And he states: “The ÖVP has a little bit of everything.” While MPs like Andreas Hanger and the new Secretary General Christian Stocker belong to the Wagenburg category, party leader Nehammer is trying to get away from the issue. He is the crisis chancellor, but otherwise has hardly any appearances. He completed the last press foyer after a Council of Ministers two months ago to present the energy cost subsidy for companies there.
Wallner went on the offensive
But there is even the third strategy in the ÖVP. And that was the last thing you heard from Markus Wallner in Vorarlberg. The governor is himself affected by investigations, but now sees the allegations “collapsing”, as he said in the “press hour” on ORF. In the show, Wallner also drew attention to the fact that the Freedom of Information Act should now be passed. This thwarts the current position of the Provincial Governors’ Conference. According to Wallner, the image that the ÖVP is currently giving must be corrected with “rules, compliance, transparency”. And, unlike the ethics council and federal party leader Nehammer, Wallner also drew the red line elsewhere, namely not in criminal law. “It’s not just a question of whether any criminal law framework was exceeded,” said Wallner.
His state party also commented on Fleischmann’s personnel a little foam-braked. If you want to question whether his employment is apt, you have to do it with the federal party, it said from Vorarlberg. Of course you see it that way there, Secretary General Stocker was already happy about the “full professional” Fleischmann on Wednesday.
“Politics isn’t about truth, it’s about perception,” says Hofer. The ÖVP would now offer the competition another target, they could now “drum their interpretation of history,” said the adviser. Even the ethics council’s rather alibi-like statement was not an exemption, since only Schmid was convicted and the next day expelled from the party.
Incidentally, the survey, which is currently being carried out in Lower Austria, not only asks about the trust values of Nehammer, Mikl-Leitner and Kurz. Another name is also asked: Thomas Schmid.