Lower Austria’s governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner is the secret Chancellor. Whether Karl Nehmann can continue depends on the powerful “Hanni”.
“Austria is a labyrinth that everyone knows” – the equally legendary and ingenious sentence of the cabaret artist Helmut Qualtinger, actually referring to the political system of the Alpine republic as a whole, applies in particular more to the chancellor party ÖVP. If you want to understand how the matrix of the conservatives works and what cards the ailing Chancellor Karl Nehammer has for continued employment, you cannot avoid a woman: Johanna Mikl-Leitner, once Minister of the Interior and since 2017 the first governor of Lower Austria.
Johanna Mikl-Leitner governs with an absolute majority in Lower Austria
The 58-year-old, known for being affable, not only leads the largest federal state in terms of area with an absolute majority, but also the probably most important power center of the Austrian conservatives in the federal government with the state party there. Since yourself Sebastian Kurz decided by the political stage, it is the ÖVP-led federal states that set the tone in Vienna – they were the ones who decided in favor of Nehammer, who comes from the Lower Austrian ÖVP. And above all it is Mikl-Leitner who is now setting the course for his future.
Your leadership role in the black country squad has been reduced in recent weeks by the – sometimes surprising – withdrawals of the ÖVP country leaders Tyrol and Styria strengthened. In Vorarlberg, the local governor also went into hiding for the time being after an advertisement affair. So Mikl-Leitner openly takes on the leadership role – and makes it clear: after barely a year in office, the clock is ticking for her party colleague, the chancellor.
Chancellor Karl Nehammer has not yet been able to bring peace to Vienna
Nehammer does not deliver what the Lower Austrian imagines: calm and stability in the federal government, and above all an end to the downward trend of the ÖVP in the polls. Austrians’ confidence in a government has never been so weak since 1945, and Nehammer’s personal values are also devastating. In view of the high energy and food prices, Mikl-Leitner does not support “her” chancellor, but rather causes the government’s planlessness to appear by announcing its own nationwide energy price support model. She publicly calls for “more leadership qualities” from Nehammer and his coalition with the Greens. “Trained Austrians” know what that means: once an ÖVP chancellor has been publicly exposed by the actual center of power, his job is hanging by a thread.
The first names are already being traded as potential ÖVP chancellors
Usually it is then only a matter of time before the one who has fallen out of favor is replaced. With her attacks on the chancellor, Mikl-Leitner opened up speculation in the media: Succession plans have long been being made at party headquarters, Finance Minister Magnus Brunner is said to be very popular, and he should put an end to the “era Kurz” and the scandals pull is about to read. The political media bubble in Vienna has long since stopped discussing how long Nehammer can stay in the chancellor’s chair, but rather the question of whether the Greens, as coalition partners, would still support a chancellor in the fourth year. Between Kurz and Nehammer, Alexander Schallenberg also held the office temporarily.
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Mikl-Leitner’s public criticism of Nehammer also has banal tactical reasons. Then the mother of two will have to defend her absolute majority next spring – her chances are not particularly good at the moment. If the ÖVP falls below 40 percent in Lower Austria, this would have a corresponding impact on the ÖVP electorate at federal level. So it’s quite possible that Nehammer’s term of office will end before the election date in Lower Austria.
The “Hanni” emulates her mentor Erwin Proell
Working through one’s “own” chancellor, through the community tours, showing closeness to the citizens – this recipe is not the invention of “Hanni”, as Mikl-Leitner also calls himself. She learned it from one of the shrewdest power politicians – one who, like her, installed “his” party leaders during his era in the federal party. But unlike her predecessor and mentor Erwin Proell, who ruled in St. Pölten like a prince for over two decades and also told the federal party where to go, Mikl-Leitner is more careful with her power. As long as there was calm in the federal government, the governor held back with cross shots. This should now be over: For the ÖVP and for its Lower Austrian center, all of the accumulated power is at stake.