Stronach’s Test in Tyrol

Opinion | Matthias Wurz | May 2013

There was one consolation for Frank Stronach in the regional elections in Tyrol on 28 April: His namesake East Tyrolean village of Iselberg-Stronach supported his "Team Stronach" with 17%, or 49 votes of its 617 inhabitants.

With the first exit polls published at 17:00, it was clear that the remarkable result – Frank’s party came in second – did not translate into a regional trend. Rather, 3.4% of the popular vote is way behind what Stronach had come to expect after the regional elections in Carinthia and Lower Austria in early March, where his party had gained about 10% of the seats in both regional governments.

Worse yet, it was self-inflicted. A conflict within his Tyrolean section bordered the bizarre, when autocratic Stronach withdrew support for his own candidate, Sonja Ulmer, earlier this month in favour of her predecessor, Hans-Peter Mayr, who had previously been sacked. The Tyrol electoral commission accepted the registration "Liste Stronach-Mayr" as representing the party, and Ulmer retaliated with an appeal to the electorate not to vote for Stronach.

The poor performance in Tyrol means no representation for Team Stronach in the regional parliament – where a 5% share of votes was needed. But this setback for the newcomer party, solely funded by Stronach with €7.6 million in donations, also has personal ramifications for Stronach.

His decision to endorse Mayr has evidently backfired, as political scientist Thomas Hofer commented on election night. Hofer, CEO of H&P Public Affairs in Vienna, called the neo-politician’s attempt to settle the dispute in Tyrol as "management error".

In other words, it would have been better not to support Mayr, as the outcome was foreseeable to many and was disastrous:

"It is evident that Stronach is a businessman, but not a politician," Hofer concluded. But this is not likely to stop him.

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