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Vienna’s Social Democrats win election with message of tolerance and humanity || Pro-immigration stance helps Norwegian Labour Party to election victory ||

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Vienna’s Social Democrats
win election with message
of tolerance and humanity

Vienna, 13 October 2015: Despite loosing five percentage points, Vienna’s Social Democrats (SPÖ) expressed relief when first results showed that they were the clear winner in Sunday’s municipal elections. Right up to polling, opinion surveys predicted a very tight outcome between the centre-left party, which had governed the Austrian capital since 1945, and the populist, rightwing Freedom Party (FPÖ). Michael Häupl, who, first elected 21 years ago, is the longest-serving mayor of any European capital, praised the Viennese people for not succumbing to the siren calls of xenophobia and intolerance. During the election campaign, FPÖ candidates portrait themselves as Christian soldiers fighting the infidels (aka refugees) and their agents (aka all moderate candidates), while Mayor Häupl pleaded for tolerance, humanity and decency.

The election was fought during the height of September’s migrant crisis, which saw thousands of Syrian refugees arrive in Vienna every week. Together with Germany, Austria opened its borders to tens of thousands of refugees trapped in neighbouring Hungary. Michael Häupl, unlike many other centrist politicians in Austrian and other European countries, decided to confront the populist right head on. He dismissed arguments that rich countries like Austria did not have the resources to cope with the refugees seeking asylum in his country or passing through to Germany. The FPÖ meanwhile campaigned with slogans like “Security for Austrians and not open borders for criminals”.

The Social Democrats (SPÖ), which have ruled Vienna uninterrupted since 1945, won more than 39 per cent of the vote, down five percentage points, while the Freedom Party (FPÖ) rose 5.3 points to 31 per cent. The Green party, which is the Social Democrats preferred coalition partner, is projected to have won 11.6 per cent (down 1 point) and the centre-right People's Party (ÖVP) 8.7 per cent (down 5.3) - its worst ever result.

The moderate Neos party made the most gains and looks set to win 6.2 percent and its first seat in the city council. Opinion polls before the election had forecast a much closer result, with even a victory for the FPÖ on the back of unease among voters about Europe's refugee crisis. The result, would make possible a continuation of the SPÖ's coalition in Vienna with the ecologist Greens.

Pro-immigration stance
helps Norwegian Labour
Party to election victory

Oslo, 16 September 2015: In Monday’s local elections in Norway, pro-immigrations parties made significant gains, while the right-wing, anti-immigrant Progress Party was heading for its worst election result in 22 years. The Progress Party, which is the junior partner in the government coalition led by the Conservatives, saw its share of the vote fall to below ten per cent, which has not happened since 1993. The Conservative Party, which won the 2013 general election, was punished by voters over its failure to manage the economy during a time when oil and natural gas prices were falling. Oil and gas are Norway’s main export commodities. The party lost control of the country’s tow largest cities, Oslo and Bergen.

The big winner in Monday’s elections was the centre-left Labour Party, which had argued that Norway, one of the richest countries in the world, could easily afford to welcome more refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries. The party’s proposal to accept some 8,000 Syrian refugees by 2017, which had won the tacit support of the Conservatives, was condemned by the Progress Party. The right-wing party went as far as to suggest that local authorities could and should refuse to accept any refugees. In contrast, the leader of the Labour Party said Norway would help, receive and give protection to those who were fleeing from war and terror.

The Conservative Party is likely to lose control of the country’s capital city Oslo as well as of Bergen, the hometown of its leader. Oslo’s conservative mayor, Fabian Stang, who has run the city since 2007, has already said that it would be impossible for him to continue as mayor. “I assume that either the Green Party will take the mayor’s job after negotiations with Labour or that Labour will take it itself,” he told reporters.

Norway’s Green Party, which advocated converting whole streets into bicycle lanes and introducing toll charges for car in Oslo, won more than four percent of the vote, one of its best election results ever.