Long Live SPÖVP!

Although unknown, new appointees have the credentials to complete the job

Opinion | Stephanie Levett | December 2008 / January 2009

2nd Dec. 2008. It’s a beautiful Winter morning as Austria’s President Heinz Fischer comments on his good mood on national radio, informing his peasants that his country finally has a new government. The SPÖVP is dead!  Long live the SPÖVP!

So, who are the people willing to carry the heavy load of responsibility for a whole country?  A nation full of people that have the renowned habit of blaming their superiors, never themselves.

Fourteen positions in the government have been filled, only three carried over with the same appointees; Claudia Schmied (Education), Maria Fekter (Interior) and, of all people, the hotly debated Norbert "the Negotiator" Darabos as Minister of Defence.

Most of the Newbies seem to have appeared out of thin air. Nikolaus Berlakovich for example.  His experience stems from a career in agricultural politics and as designated Minister for Agriculture, he will definitely need all his know-how to find a way to help Austria’s farmers survive in the EU market – to name only one of several impossible tasks.

Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek has been appointed the new Minister for Women, although no one in the broad public seems to have heard about her, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Could it be that the parties have actually searched out  professionals? Acting out of logic, not out of strategic effort, to successfully bully the other party out of the government?

Certainly Claudia Bandion-Ortner counts as one of these professionals. Having gained wild popularity during the recent BAWAG-trial, she has now been appointed new Minister of Justice. Standing out among the squad of dull, grey clad judges, the 42 year old mother-of-one has a preference for funky spectacles – thus, oddly winning the hearts of many.

The reality is, most of Austria’s 14 Ministers are either unknown, or recognized for eminently forgettable issues. Hopefully in time, they will appeal to the public as professionals in their fields, and as people who take their appointments as an honor.

Other articles from this issue