In the end it went faster than expected. Sebastian Kurz is leaving the political arena and will switch to the private sector. An understandable move, because outside Austria, the commitment, the network and the management skills of top politicians are much more valued than in our Alpine republic. It is undisputed that Sebastian Kurz has leadership qualities. Just staying in the complex ÖVP saddle for so long while implementing an ambitious restructuring program and clearly winning elections is remarkable. Since 1995 only Wolfgang Schüssel was longer in office as federal party chairman.
On the other hand, critics described Kurz’s style as meaningless, arbitrary and marketing-oriented. Decisions were only made in the smallest of circles, and even prominent party critics were rudely and uncompromisingly disgraced. Arch-conservative circles gained in importance in his slipstream. The election success proved him right, however. The time of ideologies seemed over. All over Europe, politicians who presented themselves as a concept and largely eschewed political visions, such as Emmanuel Macron in France or Boris Johnson in England, have won elections.
Corona changed something. The pandemic has made society more ideological again. Suddenly it was about solidarity, freedom rights and fundamental fears of the future of many people. Dead, overcrowded intensive care units, lockdowns, short-time work. Governments gained in importance, as they clearly decided on professional and economic livelihoods by granting aid. Politics was suddenly no longer a minor matter, which most people pursued more disinterestedly than intensely. Decisions became immediately relevant. Politicians decided whether I can leave the house, what the household budget will look like this month, or whether I can visit family members in need.
Fighting the pandemic was therefore a crucial question of political confidence for many people. And it was precisely here that pandemic management failed on the open stage. All hopeful promises turned out to be false. This loss of confidence turned into a political burden. In addition, the ongoing investigations – extremely poor conditions for political work. At least for the next few years.
The various ongoing investigations are less important for the public than corona management. Of course, chats drew a picture, but this would have been correctable afterwards. What was striking, however, was that under this personal pressure, strategically and communicatively, no faux pas were left out. Starting with the journalists’ background discussion on January 20, 2020 in the Political Academy of the ÖVP, when the incumbent Chancellor Kurz identified red networks in the WKStA. The subsequent constant attacks on the judiciary and the WKStA were also unnecessary, because he could not win this argument with words. In addition, a new committee of inquiry was slowly taking shape on the horizon, which is preparing to move the former Federal Chancellor into the center of political investigative work. From the point of view of the party, there is another risk, namely chat messages that are still unknown to the public.
At this point in October I wrote about the coming developments “How this inner-party struggle will ultimately end is still open. But one thing is clear, in the end the governors always win. ”They have now made the right decision and have chosen Karl Nehammer. With Karl Nehammer, the party executive elected the right personality to the right place at the right time. A man who speaks black and turquoise and is therefore able to direct possible inner-party disharmonies. I wouldn’t be surprised if the party color stays turquoise, but the word “new” disappears from the name.
In addition, Nehammer is crisis-resistant, well-considered and open to criticism. At the same time an intelligent and extremely hardworking political head with grounding, someone who has the quality of a handshake. A person who will give “his” ministers the necessary freedom despite being clear about the direction. His most important quality at the moment, however, is the ability to build bridges. Not only within the party, but also with regard to political competition. Someone that Austria and the ÖVP need now. In that sense, a nice new beginning.
The greatest respect goes to Alexander Schallenberg. He became chancellor because he was needed. The current step back speaks for him, his highly ethical work ethic and a functioning sense of reality. Maintaining this is not so easy in top positions.