March 5. 2024. 1:43

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Austria’s social democrats decide to hold leadership race


Following weeks of infighting, the Social Democrats decided on Friday to give its members the chance to select the party’s future leader before the summer, marking the start of a race between candidates for the top position

It was agreed that the party’s 140,000 members should be consulted about who should lead the party, and a subsequent extraordinary party congress will be held to confirm the winner. Both should be held before summer, and there is a possibility that the new leader could be chosen by May.

The simmering situation escalated on Wednesday after socialist Hans-Peter Doskozil, a migration hardliner from Eastern Austria, applied for the party chair after years of publicly cross-firing against current party leader Pamela-Rendi Wagner, the first woman to lead the SPÖ on a federal level since 2018.

Until now, a colleague has never challenged an incumbent SPÖ chairperson.

For months, the social democrats have been in second place behind the right-wing FPÖ in Austrian polls, although they were almost consistently in the lead in 2022, sometimes even topping 30%.

“This party still lives in the self-image of having to serve everyone. It gets lost in far too many issues. And it has lost its focus,” Austrian policy advisor Rudolf Fussi tweeted on Wednesday, arguing that focusing on staffing issues was “a mistake that parties like to make”.

“The SPÖ must sharpen its content and answer the question for whom it wants to make politics and then consistently deliver these answers in all policy areas,” he said.

For the SPÖ, Austria’s largest opposition party, it is now a matter of reuniting more than a year before the regular new election date.

“I want us to set up a reasonable process, as far as you can still get something reasonable together in this situation,” Peter Kaiser, an SPÖ heavyweight, told journalists on Wednesday, ORF reported.

(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)