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Austrian populist-right politician HC Strache led his own campaign for the Viennese municipal elections which took place on Sunday. People who aren't followers of Austrian politics may not be aware that he was involved in a controversy/scandal last year (Ibizagate) and left the Freedom Party (FPÖ) he once led.

Does he actually appeal to a significantly different demographic or political tradition from the Freiheitlichen? Is there any significant ideological difference between "Team HC" and the rump FPÖ? Or is this just a vanity/personality thing?

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Already back in January, Strache spoke on a New Year’s reception of the then DAÖ (Die Allianz für Österreich, the Alliance for Austria). At the time, he was no longer a member of the FPÖ (having been suspended formally after ‘resting his membership’ voluntarily) but had not yet joined another grouping. The DAÖ was a group of former FPÖ members who split off in support of Strache and wished him to join them and give the party his name. In May, he joined the DAÖ which subsequently renamed itself Team HC Strache. During his speech in January, he used phrases such as (quoted from an FAZ article in German):

Was ist die FPÖ ohne HC Strache? Zwei oder vielleicht drei Chefs. Hofer, der seidenweich dahin rutscht, oder Kickl, der alles wieder viel zu weit überspitzt, oder Heimbuchner, der am Zipfel des Landeshauptmanns hängt.

Was ist HC Strache ohne FPÖ? Derselbe HC Strache und derselbe Mensch, den ihr seit Jahrzehnten kennt. Hier steht das Original.

My translation:

What is the FPÖ without HC Strache? Two or maybe three bosses. Hofer who is sliding along like on velvet, or Kickl who excessively exaggerates everything, or Heimbuchner who is tied to the Landeshauptmann’s (minister president of an Austrian state; in this case Upper Austria where an ÖVP/FPÖ coalition is ruling) apron strings.

What is HC Strache without the FPÖ? The same HC Strache and the same person that you have known for decades. This is the original.

The article describes most of the remainder of his speech as reinforcing arguments and talking points that he made while being in power in the FPÖ – notably points that the FPÖ is using to appeal to its audience such as prohibition of headscarves in schools and kindergardens. It is clear that he is marketing himself as the true FPÖ while the party of that name is becoming weak and degrading to a ‘second ÖVP’.

However, just because he says that doesn’t mean voters see it the same way. Thankfully, with the recent vote in Vienna we have demoscopic data to show which voters the Team HC Strache received from which other parties. The graph can be found at ORF.at, the Austrian public broadcaster.

When looking at the votes Team HC Strache received from supporters of other parties in 2015 (the last election), the vast majority came from the FPÖ. A second batch came from non-voters and very minor contributions came from SPÖ voters and others.

Likewise when looking at where the FPÖ voters of 2015 went, these split into mostly non-voters in 2020, and then in decreasing order of significance FPÖ voters, ÖVP voters, SPÖ voters, Team HC Strache voters and others.

Considering how much lower Team HC Strache’s vote share was, the proportion of voters it gained from the FPÖ is far higher than statistically expected and a greater portion of FPÖ voters defected to Team HC Strache than would be statistically expected. It thus seems rather clear that the two parties are mainly appealing to the same demographics.

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  • So it seems like there is no real ideological difference, and this is just some kind of weird ego thing on Strache's part? – Statsanalyst Oct 14 '20 at 14:24
  • @Statsanalyst at least he didn't advertise any ideological differences. The adds I've seen could have easily been FPÖ adds, except for the name and logo. – Hulk Oct 14 '20 at 15:51

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