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Austria: Woman at the helm of the Social Democrats

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A message for a new beginning is to be sent by the Austrian Social Democrats, the largest party to the Austrian opposition – which until last December led Austrian governments over the past ten years – from their two-day Congress starting in Velles in Western Austria on Saturday and during which, for the first time in 130 years of their history, they will elect a woman as their leader, 47-year-old former Health Minister, Pamla Reddie-Wagner.

The 650 delegates will elect both the governing committee and the party bureau, in addition to the new leader, who will succeed the former Austrian chancellor (until last December) Christian Cern, who had surrendered the past September of all his posts.

At the Congress, entitled “New Power, New Courage”, outgoing Christian Cern, who originally opposed (but later withdrew his intentions) to lead the party’s candidates in the European elections, as well as being the head of his candidates Of the European Socialist Party, is expected to officially announce its definitive withdrawal from politics.

The delegates, as well as the 800 guests, including many party representatives from abroad, are waiting for the announcement of the new leader’s program, Pamla Reddy-Wagner, while the Congress is about to vote on the party’s new program that has been under way for months, and a series of decisions on suggestions made by representatives of party organizations from all over Austria.

One of the main contributions is to introduce a week of 35 working hours as a first step for a 30-hour week, as well as the request for a six-week annual leave. The suggestions will reiterate the demand that has been made for years in congresses by the Austrian Social Democrats for the imposition of inheritance and wealth tax.

In the preface of the Congress there will be reports and assumptions about the failure of the party to adapt to changes in the voter turnout, the loss of prosperity and the challenges of immigration.

Pamela Rendi-Wagner, the new head of the Austrian Social Democrats, with an urban-liberal background and a “brilliant” career as a doctor and senior official of the Austrian Ministry of Health before taking his leadership a year and a half ago, will be head of the Austrian opposition in the future.

The new leader will face the political coalition government of the conservative People’s Party of Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz and the far-right Nationalist Liberal Party.

It is believed that she will continue the line of her predecessor to the Social Democrats Christian Kern, who did not have much political experience in the past, but had taken over in May 2016 the party leadership and the post of Chancellor as a successful technocrat, having previously served as General Manager of the Austrian Federal Railways.

Their support for the new leader – as the tenth post-war leader – of the Austrian Social Democrats, who joined the party just one and a half years ago, assured the Congress of the Congress that the party organizations from both the nine Austrian Länder and its trade unions who welcomed the fact that, with Pamella Renti-Wagner, for the first time in the 130 years since the founding of the party, she took over a woman as its leader.

Political analysts have long criticized the Social Democratic Party for its partial alienation from its voters, for repeated adjustments to its policies in recent years and for its gradual shift to the center and the right.

As a consequence of these developments, they are considered by themselves to be the constant contraction in the number of members of the party who continue to pay their contributions, which have fallen by 20,000 in the past two years and now their total number is just over 200,000.

The Austrian Social Democratic Party had experienced its greatest boom in the era of the historic Chancellor of Austria, Bruno Kraishki, who had ruled for 13 years with self-governing governments, giving Parliament an absolute majority of more than 50% between 1971-1983 and the Its Socialist Party – and later Social Democratic – numbered more than 730,000 members in 1980.

His successors, party leaders and chancellors, Fred Zinovac, Franz Vranitzski, Viktor Klima, Alfred Gusenbauer, Werner Fehman, and Christian Cern, with only the relative majority, were headed from 1983 to 1999, and – Austrian-right-right rift between 2000 and 2006 – from January 2007 to December 2017, coalition governments in Austria with the People’s Party.

In the last parliamentary elections of 15 October 2017, the Austrian Social Democrats found themselves second, losing their first position in elections for almost half a century – with the exception of the 2002 elections – with 26.9% against 26.8% in the previous elections September 2013.

Sebastian Kurtz’s People’s Party was the first political force with 31.5% (24% in 2013), who has been head of the coalition government chancellor since last December with the far-right Nationalist Liberal Party, % (20.5% in 2013).