STA, March 5, 2018 – The result of Sunday's election in the Austrian province of Carinthia has come as a surprise to the Slovenian minority. Most are happy with the strong showing of the Social Democrats (SPÖ), who exit polls suggest won over 47% of the vote. One of the party's seats was won by ethnic Slovenian Ana Blatnik.
The only member of the Slovenian community to make it to the province's parliament, Blatnik told the Austrian broadcaster ORF that she was lost for words in the face of the party's result.
"Voters opted for the path of respect, positive coexistence and atmosphere, and above all the path of working together. This is something very important for Carinthia, Austria and all of Europe."
Blatnik gave part of the credit for the 10-point increase in the party's showing to Chancellor Peter Kaiser (SPÖ) and his work, including for the benefit of the Slovenian minority. "Slovenian language has been enshrined in the [provincial] Constitution. These are the steps that must continue," she said.
Another candidate of the minority Gabriel Hribar, who stood for the joint list Neos/Moja južna Koroška (My Southern Carinthia), failed to get into the Landtag. He too was surprised by the outcome.
"The election campaign had been indicating a great fear of a potential comeback of a blue-black or a blue provincial government in Carinthia so many voters saw the election for the provincial assembly as a vote for the province's governor," he commented.
Nanti Olip, vice chairman of the National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS), described the result as an exceptional success for the SPÖ, which he attributed in part to the slump in support for the smaller parties. He believes this may indicate a return to the political system of the 1980s.
"It may happen that only four parties will be represented [in the Landtag], while the smaller parties will have no chance of competing with the big ones," he said, adding that the result was by no means an absolute endorsement Kaiser's past work.
Marjan Sturm, the head of the Association of Slovenian Organisations (ZSO), had expected an increase in support for the SPÖ, but not such a strong one. He welcomed the result and Blatnik's election as a sign that Carinthia "is becoming a normal province, run by a moderate politician through a cultured dialogue".
The result was also hailed by Bernard Sadovnik, the head of the Community of Carinthian Slovenians (SKS). "However, the Green's being squeezed out is not good for the Slovenian community because the coalition of Social Democrats and the Greens guaranteed continuity on the minority issue." Nevertheless, Sadovnik expects cooperation to continue to be enhanced.
Exit polls suggest the SPÖ won 47.3% of the vote ahead of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) with 22.5% and the People's Party (ÖVP) with 16%, while Team Carinthia, the Greens and Neos failed to make the threshold to enter the parliament.