In the Austrian legislative election, 2017, the Green Party dropped from 12.4% to 3.3%. This happened after MP Peter Pilz split off along with several others, and the entire youth wing got expelled and teamed up with the Communist Party instead, according to Wikipedia. That's some pretty severe infighting, and in fact Pilz got more votes than the Greens. The President of Austria is a former Green Party chairperson, so clearly this party and its (former) leaders play a significant role in Austrian politics — it's not a fringe party.

What is the fuss all about? Were the fights about policy or just about individual politician's careers? It is unusual that the politician who split off from the original party ends up getting more votes than the party.


The breakaways, Peter Pilz did not get the spot (fourth) that he wanted within the Green party (he was instead offered the sixth place but he refused). So he decided to leave, even though he was a co-founder of the Green party.

Also one reason for the declining votes for the Green party was a lot of former Green party members voted for the democratic party SPÖ to go against the rise of the very right wing party FPÖ. They hoped an increase in SPÖ would decrease the chances of a government with the FPÖ. Little good it did them, as they will most likely be in the government with another right wing party ÖVP who had the most votes in the 2017 election.

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  • Isn't the order within a party determined by the election itself in Austria? This would be logical. – Communisty Oct 17 '17 at 12:24
  • But it's odd that someone who breaks away for purely personal reasons "I want to be higher on the list" would be rewarded by voters by getting more votes than the original party. That's why I wonder if there's more to it. – gerrit Oct 17 '17 at 13:50
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    @Communisty: Many electoral systems use "party lists", where candidates are ranked by the party submitting the list. Usually voters can still vote for individual candidates, but even then vote transfers within the party list will follow the list ranking (i.e. votes for candidates not elected directly will be redistributed from the top down). – MSalters Oct 18 '17 at 11:00
  • @MSalters These kind of party lists supposedly benefit the party elite undermining the most popular candidates. – Communisty Oct 18 '17 at 11:15
  • @Communisty: If the party elite creates the list, and then only if the party elite got into that position by popular support. But if the candidates are elected directly by party members, or the nomination board is, then your assertion does not hold. Some countries require that political parties themselves operate democratically (i.e. all party members can vote), in others this is merely established tradition (i.e. parties don't gain popular support if they violate the implicit norm) – MSalters Oct 18 '17 at 11:23

Parties of the left and right tend to be highly fragmented. The day after Germany's AfD had its biggest election victory, its former leader, Frauke Petry, resigned.

There are so many ideologies and subcurrents. ANd parties of the left and right tend to be doctrinaire - you are either a "true believer" or you are an apostate. Probably the biggest point of division comes as an outsider party gains support and visibility. The sticking point is almost always whether to compromise to gain a voice in governing or to remain true to one's beliefs and stay in the political wilderness.

In the case of both the main Austrian and German Greens, the party operatives were willing to make political compromises in order to gain governing influence. The breakaways believed that they were selling out. Of course, if all you can do is to lob rocks from the sidelines, you really don't make much of a difference, eh?

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    Although there is some general truth in this, do you have evidence that this is what the conflict in the Austrian Greens was about? If so, could you link to that evidence? – gerrit Oct 16 '17 at 17:27

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