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The ÖVP and SPÖ approached the parliamentary election of 1990 with trepidation. In 1989 the political landscape had been shaken by Haider's FPÖ, which had racked up impressive gains in provincial elections in Carinthia, Salzburg, and Tirol. Even though questions had been raised about Haider's honesty, he continued to entice voters to leave the major parties. The FPÖ scored a spectacular success in Carinthia, where it displaced the ÖVP as the second largest party, and it caused the ÖVP to lose its absolute majority in Salzburg.
In the October 1990 national election, the FPÖ again shocked the political establishment by increasing its share of the vote from 9.7 to 16.6 percent. This gain came almost completely at the expense of the ÖVP, whose share of the vote declined from 41.3 to 32.1 percent. The SPÖ's share of the vote remained essentially the same, which surprised everyone. The party, realizing that its strong suit was the popularity of Vranitzky, employed a new electoral strategy that probably explains its ability to avoid the ÖVP's fate. With Vranitzky as the top candidate in all nine electoral districts, the SPÖ urged voters to cast preference votes for Vranitzky, which could be done without selecting the SPÖ box on the ballot (these votes would count toward the SPÖ's total number of seats in the Nationalrat, however). A nonpartisan committee was organized to carry out this campaign, and it succeeded in attracting support from sources that otherwise might not have voted for the SPÖ in the regular manner. Because of disagreements between the two Green parties, they did not run on a united ticket as they had in 1986. The Green Alternative/Greens in Parliament (Grüne Alternative/Grüne in Parliament--GAL), formerly known as the Alternative List of Austria, received 4.5 percent and increased its seats in the parliament from eight to ten. The United Greens of Austria (Vereinigte Grüne Österreichs--VGÖ) received only 1.9 percent and won no seats.
Given the antipathy that Vranitzky felt for Haider, there was no chance of a revival of an SPÖ-FPÖ coalition. After a period of negotiations, the SPÖ and ÖVP agreed to continue the grand coalition. Because economic conditions were much improved in comparison with 1986, the new coalition planned to focus on issues such as social welfare, health care, science, and research. Attention would also be given to reforming the country's electoral system and its chambers of commerce and labor. Increasing numbers of Austrians regarded the former as unrepresentative and resented the latter's requirement of compulsory membership. The coalition partners decided to upgrade the position of state secretary for women's affairs to full cabinet rank, and the new Ministry for Women's Affairs was created to oversee these matters.
More about the Government and Politics of Austria.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress