deus ex macchiato

Fabian Bazant-Hegemark's blog

Scylla and Charybdis

How fear of one party destroys democratic processes.

Next Sunday the people of Vienna will vote the government of their little citystate for the next five years. The stakes, it seems, are high, considering that the populist far right post-Nazi party FPÖ just won comparable elections in more rural areas of Austria. Of course, Austria is in total a rural area filled with pumpkin farms, but now polls suggest that the FPÖ might actually become indispensable for the next term.

People in my bobo social structure try to rationalize this by saying that the other people–not them or anyone they actually know–are afraid of all the refugees. And afraid of the economy. And jobs. And this and that. And that's why they vote a populist far right party. Not because they are dipshits, but because they seek easy answers, and the FPÖ provides them, as long as you don't really question whether they would actually hold up in a court of law (as in, would be unconstitutional) or if you ignore that the FPÖ, whenever it held (part of an) office, created debts and pain of unimaginable magnitude (Look up "HYPO scandal" on Wikipedia, it's a fun read).

So we have a party that some think only borders democratic values but actually shouldn't ever be allowed to hold office, and polls show that they will be the only party really winning any points in the upcoming election.

Then you have the other parties.

There's Austria's equivalent of a GOP, the ÖVP. There's the post-socialist SPÖ that is basically the same as the ÖVP, with the difference only in it's history (including a civil war between the two shortly before WW2) and that Vienna traditionally is governed by the SPÖ.

Then there's the Green party, which was in a coalition in the last five years that didn't allow them to do much, but be – in the minds of those same people that probably will vote FPÖ – responsible for everything that went wrong in the same time period and beyond that.

And then there's a couple of other lists and options nobody ever gave a shit about that hovered at below 1 percent of the votes for the last 30ish years, like the Pirate party, the Communist party, Animal Rights party, and stuff like that.

Thing is, to receive even a single mandate, which is the requirement to be able to do anything in the city parliament, you need at least 4% of the vote. If your party receives less than 4%, those <4% of the votes are down the drain, and the mandate that you might have gotten will go to one of the other parties respectively. So, this year, many of this tiny listy lists made a bold and smart move: they work together as Wien Anders (Vienna different(ly)), stylized as Wien Andas (VIenna diffarant(ley)), to concentrate the votes that they receive and thus have a bigger chance of not being a vote-dumpster. Because, and this isn't proven by polls, but let's assume 3% of the votes would have gone to the Pirate Party and 3.5% to the Communist party and 2% to the animal rights party, that is 8.5% of the mandates down the fucking drain. 8.5% of the people could just have stayed in bed on election day, because they don't fucking matter at all.

But, if you now instead vote for this benign conglomerate, you'd easily surpass the 4% mark, right? Well, in theory yes. But there is a problem.

Because people, especially in my bobo hipster social surroundings, many of whom would totally accept many of the premises that Wien Andas puts forward, are at the same time shitface scared that their vote might be lost because not enough other people would vote for this new party, and thus they would have helped the FPÖ, which stands for everything they don't stand for, to gain more mandates and more power.

So we have this ironic situation that there is not only a candidate that supports many things many people think is important, like online privacy, animal rights, fair wages, et cetera, plus are not part of the establishment of which everyone knows nothing good would come - I had arguments with people who now suddenly don't wanna vote for the Green party because they think that the last five years were not as good as they could have been - and possibly nobody will vote for them because they are scared into voting a safe option that will not help the causes they believe in, maybe even hurt those causes.

Somehow many of my peers seem to have gotten this idea that the most important thing is that one specific party shouldn't come to office, and that their own democratic choice is not above that goal.

Honey, this isn't Texas Hold'Em. While I get the urge to vote for the party that’s most likely to enter the city council and not have your voice wasted, this isn’t how parties work. They simply see their percentage and act like you voted for them. Wait for it. They’ll all talk about the “voter mandate” and how they have an “obligation”. They always do that. Don’t let them do it. If you are reduced to voting tactically, then all of this voting bullshit won't help anyone. Anyways.

If all other people vote for the racist, anti-human-rights, sexist, post-Nazi, corrupt and lying FPÖ, then maybe those people and the city they - and we - all live in just sucks. Them voting FPÖ isn't the problem. It isn't out of fear or spite. They think that this is the best option. Why would they trust people who say otherwise? Your vote and your beliefs won't be compromised if you vote for those you believe in. Because that's what those people that you wish would vote differently do as well. They vote with their heart just as you do. And if in your opinion that makes them horrible people, well, you'll have to deal with that, either by fret or by convincing them. But you won't until this Sunday when they will vote for the party that you don't like. Don’t worry. You’ll have the next 4 years and 11 months to not give a shit and then realize you need to totally change other people’s opinions in like a month until the next election comes and you need to tactically vote for xyz again.

My point is, if you feel that a certain democratic party supports the things that you think are important, you should vote for that party, not vote for another one that sounds like it might have better chances of entering the parliament. You shouldn't throw your beliefs out the window for tactical support for a different party that actually works against your beliefs, just because you think that it might help harm another party. Because by this you ultimately only hurt your own causes.

Your voice never matters anyway. Might just as well say what you actually think.