Political scientist analyzes: “Innsbruck was especially notable for its chaos”

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Elections will take place in the Tyrolean capital in April 2024. The ‘Tyroler Krone’ wanted to know from political scientist Peter Plaikner how he estimated the chances of Mayor Georg Willi (Greens) and his competitors. We also asked how Willi did during this legislature.

“Kron”: All in all: how has Mayor Georg Willi fared in this legislature?
Peter Plaikner:
According to the circumstances. The Innsbruck city council has eleven lists and two freelancers – that seems ungovernable. We have a combination of a green mayor and a blue first deputy mayor – the polarization is predetermined. And the second deputy was not even at the head of his own party (ÖVP) – and now founded his own parliamentary group. It is more extreme than in comparable cities in Austria. Nowhere else is it as divided as in Innsbruck – even though Graz has a KPÖ mayor. Given these circumstances, mercy must prevail over justice. It is quite surprising that nothing major has happened and the legislative period has come to an end. But the established parties are in a debacle: the Greens are divided, and in the FPÖ it is not yet entirely clear who is in charge: Rudi Federspiel or Markus Lassenberger? The ÖVP has been completely divided since 1994, just like the SPÖ.

The governing coalition was dissolved and there were several castlings among the vice presidents. How should these events be classified?
As a result, BM Willi very quickly lost part of the reason why he was chosen. Christine Oppitz-Plörer has been accused – to put it mildly – ​​of consistently exercising power. Willi represented a desire for more harmony. It was known that he also fulfilled this role within the Greens. However, this image was destroyed by the deselection of Oppitz-Plörer and, a year later, Uschi Schwarzl. In retrospect, it was a mistake to cut both Oppitz-Plörer and Schwarzl. The all-male government was also fatal for the outside world – especially in Innsbruck, where groundbreaking work was done for women in politics with Hilde Zach as the first female mayor of a state capital and her successor Christine Oppitz-Plörer. Willi has not succeeded in fulfilling an integration role here – neither in the city nor in his own party. The fact that he was chosen as the top candidate by only 36 people also speaks volumes.

Willi often complained about the explosion in costs of his predecessor’s major projects, such as the Patscherkofelbahn. What about Willis’ own big projects? Some, like Boznerplatz, failed.
The period is characterized by many projects, but few implementations. The criticism of the cost explosion may have been justified, but at least something happened. Here too, the ungovernability is clear: Willis’s political partners blocked and prevented any success.

How does the rest of Austria view Innsbruck?
Innsbruck stood out for its chaos. And yet the city is considered extremely livable, up and coming, but extremely expensive. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the original city dwellers to afford life in the city. And no faction has actually made any progress. The housing problem has not been solved in any way. GR Benjamin Plach (SPÖ) came closest to introducing initiatives here, but real solutions are still far away. These are the city’s problems. And the Greens are not necessarily the party with the great social consciousness they are considered to be, but rather the party with the highest-earning electorate – at least until the rise of the Neos.

How do you estimate Willi’s chances of winning the mayoral elections next spring?
Extremely bad because Florian Tursky is a co-candidate for the ÖVP, FI and the Seniors Association. But that has changed again with the announcement of Johannes Anzengruber’s own list. As soon as they were united, the ÖVP split again. Willi is better known in the city. But I wouldn’t underestimate how strategically important a mayor in Austria’s fifth largest city is for the People’s Party – that’s why Tursky was positioned that way. He will try to be very present through the Viennese media, where he is doing surprisingly well, but also to be more present in Innsbruck; In short, this was the first attempt to appear united again since 1994. On the other hand, the SPÖ also has potential with candidate Elisabeth Mayr.

What are their chances?
If she cleverly capitalizes on the fact that she is the only woman in the race to become mayor, she could do much better than you might think right now. But she should start the election campaign slowly, at the latest at the beginning of the year.

What impact does Johannes Anzengruber’s split have on the People’s Party?
Anzengruber, who has ensured that the promised unity of the ÖVP is once again not present, will probably receive fewer votes than “the New Innsbruck”. A battle arises between the parties between the Greens, ÖVP and FI – i.e. ‘the New Innsbruck’ – and FPÖ for first place. This will primarily be determined by the initially difficult to assess potential of Tursky and Lassenberger as top candidates, while Willi’s mayoral bonus helps the Greens despite everything.

Willi is often accused of not communicating enough with other parties.
In short, communication between political opponents is much better than what is portrayed in public. But only the people behind the scenes know how intact the basis for behind-the-scenes discussion actually is. In any case, it was not possible to generate a harmonious appearance from these conversations. The result is that as mayor he finds himself in a similar role to his predecessor Oppitz-Plörer, namely that he goes to the extreme. He may not have gone through everything, but in the end it was “Georg home alone”.

How should the case of special contracts for the head of the personnel office be assessed retrospectively?
The external impact is catastrophic. Basically it goes like this: ‘The Greens are the same as everyone else – keyword haggling.’ Willi underestimated what it means to be mayor in a municipality that for decades only had civilian mayors. From the outside, this is seen as if the Greens also wanted to accommodate their people. Whether it is justified or not.

Has Willi done the Greens a disservice?
I do not think so. For the first time, one of the six major cities has succeeded in taking on government responsibility at local level. That was important for the Greens – even if it was not particularly successful, this merit remains.

What do you think of the 4 percent hurdle for Innsbruck?
It is a mixed blessing: on the one hand, municipal government becomes more manageable, but on the other hand, cities in particular thrive on having the lowest possible barriers to having a say in politics.

Source: Krone

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