Politics without compromise?

Politics compromises

"We are experiencing the strongest democratic erosion process since the 1930 years and must counteract this."
Christoph Hofinger, SORA

The alternative to the laborious and - for both parties and observers - often tiresome and frustrating struggle for compromise is the authoritarianism, a dictatorial social order with limited (political and cultural) diversity of opinion and (social and personal) scope of action. Recent political developments show that people across Europe are clearly longing for strong, political leaders who can assert their political beliefs as uncompromisingly as possible. The rise of right-wing populist and extreme parties clearly speaks for it. Experts are largely in agreement that right-wing populist and extreme political currents tend to inherently lean towards authoritarian structures and leadership styles.

Policy tradeoffs
A compromise is the solution of a conflict by linking initially conflicting positions. Each side waives part of its claims in favor of a new position that it can represent. A compromise per se is neither good nor bad. The result may be a lazy compromise, in which a party actually loses out, but also a win-win situation where both parties exit a conflict situation with added value over their original position. The latter is probably part of the high art of politics. In any case, the compromise lives on respect for the opposing position and is part of the essence of democracy.

This trend seems to be confirmed by a survey of the SORA Institute for Social Research and Consulting, which was conducted in September 2016. It revealed that 48 percent of the Austrian population no longer believe in democracy as the best form of government. In addition, only 36 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, "We need a strong leader who does not have to worry about parliament and elections." In the year 2007, this was done after all 71 percent. The pollster and scientific director of the Institute, Christoph Hofinger, says in a Falter interview: "We experience the strongest democratic erosion process since the 1930er years and must counteract this."

The year of stagnation

But is the alternative to an imminent authoritarian political system really the total standstill, as we experience it in this country? A stalemate that goes hand in hand with a policy disenchantment that reaches a new high point year after year? Here, too, the numbers speak a clear language: For example, in an opinion poll by the OGM this year, 82 percent of respondents said that they had little or no confidence in politics and 89 percent as well as domestic politicians.
One of the main reasons for this loss of confidence is the grotesque lack of decision-making, action and reform of our political system. In addition to many other areas of politics, hardly anything has changed here in terms of democracy in the past year. Of the well-sounding projects of the Federal Government - "Strengthen direct democracy", "Personalize suffrage", "Freedom of information instead of official secrecy" - has not been implemented. We do not want to talk about the federalism reform that has been debated for decades. Against this backdrop, the Majority Choice and Democracy Reform (IMFD) initiative has simply declared 2016 a year of political stalemate.

Option: minority government

As the saying goes, you can not do it all right. But maybe at least some of the voters can be satisfied? It does not even need major changes to the law, it is already possible. A party without majority after the election forms a government - without a coalition partner. The advantage: The government program could be made more straightforward and would probably promise at least part of the population. The disadvantage: The majority in parliament would not exist, for each project would have to find reliable partners sought. This makes the minority government extremely unstable. And the move requires "eggs", which are apparently in vain sought in the domestic political landscape. But as a result, clearer election results could also develop again.

Option: stronger election winners

The IMWD goes in a similar direction. For years, it has been campaigning for a revival of Austrian democracy and a strengthening of political confidence. For this reason, the initiative calls for, among other things, two fundamental reforms of Austrian suffrage: "We are in favor of a majority-promoting electoral law that gives the strongest party several coalition options," said Prof. Herwig Hösele, Secretary-General of the initiative. The highest-ranking party - measured by the election result - would be disproportionately represented in parliament and would greatly favor the formation of a federal government capable of working and deciding. A major advantage of the majority voting system is that it promotes clear parliamentary majorities - and thus also responsibilities - and brings greater momentum to politics.

Liberation from party pressure

The second central requirement of the IMWD is a stronger personality orientation of suffrage. This is to "fulfill the desire of the population to choose people and not anonymous party lists," said Hoesele. The aim of this electoral reform is to reduce the dependency of the deputies of their party and thus to free them from the captivity of their party demands. This would allow MEPs to vote against their own faction as they would be primarily committed to their constituents or regions. A disadvantage of this arrangement, however, is that majority formations in Parliament are much more opaque.

Minority with majority

In its demands for democracy policy, the initiative was much inspired by the Graz political scientist Klaus Poier, who developed the model of the "minority-friendly majority voting system". This provides that the highest-ranking party automatically receives the majority of seats in parliament. This will create clear political power relations in Parliament while ensuring the plurality of the political system. The model has been discussed in Austria since the 1990 years.

Ideals vs. Compromise

A few years ago, Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit brought the political compromise out of the dark, shabby corner of the political spectrum of action and elevated it to a high art of balancing interests and bringing together conflicting positions. In his book "About compromises - and lazy compromises" (suhrkamp, ​​2011) he describes the compromise as an indispensable tool of politics and as a beautiful and meritorious thing, especially when it comes to war and peace.
According to him, we should be much more judged by our compromises than by our ideals and values: "Ideals can tell us something important about what we would like to be. Compromises tell us who we are, "says Avishai Margalit.

Opinions about authoritarianism
"Although most right-wing populist parties initially adhere to democratic rules (elections), they nevertheless try - according to their ideology - to undermine democratic institutions and by their exclusionary rhetoric arbitrarily define the respective" people ", the" real "Austrians, Hungarians or Americans, etc. Since they represent - in their opinion - the "people" and thus also the only correct opinion, they must - so their argument - also win. And if not, then a conspiracy is under way. Europe shows what happens when such parties are in power, as in Hungary or Poland. Freedom of the media and the judiciary are immediately curtailed and oppositionists are slowly eliminated. "
o. Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Ruth Wodak, Department of Linguistics, University of Vienna

"Authoritarianism, combined with a charismatic leader, is a key feature of right-wing populism. From this point of view, it is only logical that right-wing populist movements always tend towards authoritarian and simple answers to complex problems and questions. Democracy is based on negotiation, compromise, compensation. This is, as we know, tedious and tedious - and often disappointing in the result. In authoritarian systems, this is apparently "much easier ..."
Dr. Werner T. Bauer, Austrian Association for Policy Consulting and Policy Development (ÖGPP)

"Authoritarian attitudes are a central feature of right-wing populist and right-wing extremist parties - and their voters. Therefore, these parties also tend to authoritarian political systems. Their political understanding of state includes a homogenous population, the rejection of immigration, and the division of society into in-group and out-groups, the latter being identified as a threat. Authoritarian attitudes also include a willingness to be subordinated to recognized authorities, which is also expected to maintain or restore the desired social order, including through punishment of dissenting opinions or persons. "
Mag. Martina Zandonella, Institute for Social Research and Consulting (SORA)

Photo / Video: Shutterstock.

Written by Veronika Janyrova

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