Strache’s party — Team HC Strache — won just 3.6 percent of the vote | Georg Hochmuth/APA via Getty Images
Heinz-Christian Strache’s party fails to win enough votes to enter Vienna city council.
Updated 10/11/20, 10:12 PM CET
Heinz-Christian Strache, the former Austrian far-right leader forced to resign last year in a major political scandal, lost his comeback bid in local Vienna elections Sunday after his party failed to garner enough votes to enter the city council.
Strache’s party — Team HC Strache — won just 3.6 percent of the vote, well below the 5 percent necessary to hold seats in the council, according to projections by Austrian state broadcasting. The Social Democrats, who have governed Vienna since World War II without interruption, came in first with 42 percent and are expected to renew their coalition with the Greens, who won 14 percent. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s People’s Party, which succeeded in winning over disgruntled far-right voters, more than doubled its result to nearly 19 percent.
Strache had led the far-right Freedom Party for nearly 15 years and served as Austria’s vice chancellor, or deputy leader, under Kurz. He earned international infamy last year after German media released a video — filmed surreptitiously in a finca on the Spanish island of Ibiza — that showed him offering to exchange political influence for party donations to a woman he believed to be the daughter of a Russian oligarch.
In the video clips, Strache and a colleague can be heard making bold claims about receiving illegal donations from a number of wealthy Austrians and prominent companies. Austrian authorities are investigating those claims as part of a wider investigation into Strache and his former party.
Strache insists he was set up. The fact that the filmmakers’ identity remains a mystery lends support to that claim, but it hasn’t distracted voters from Strache’s eagerness to take advantage of what he believed to be a good opportunity.
In addition to forcing Strache’s resignation last year, the Ibiza affair also brought down Kurz’s government, a coalition between his conservative People’s Party and the Freedom Party. Kurz’s party won a new election a few months later, however, and now governs at the federal level with the Greens.
Meanwhile, support for the Freedom Party, one of the most successful far-right populist movements in Europe, has collapsed. The Freedom Party, which won more than 30 percent of the votes in Vienna in the last election in 2015, garnered just under 8 percent on Sunday.
Strache’s Vienna campaign was seen as a test as to whether Austrian voters were ready to look beyond the scandals that have consumed the country’s far right in the wake of the Ibiza affair. It would appear that they are not.
In an interview on Austrian television, party leader Norbert Hofer didn’t hesitate in naming the reason for the implosion: “Ibiza.”