Austria’s Beer Party surges ahead in national polls
Its policies range from constructing a beer fountain in the heart of Vienna to providing housing for Ukrainian refugees. Now polling at a record 10%, could Austria’s Beer Party become a political force to be reckoned with?
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When you hear the term “beer party” your first thought probably isn’t a political movement. But, having just hit 10% in national polls, The Beer Party is gaining traction among voters. In October’s Austrian presidential elections, party leader and founder Dominik Wlazny (known by his stage name of Marco Pogo) gained 8.31% of the vote, with 337,000 citizens putting their cross in his box.
Pogo, a comedian, doctor, brewer and musician, founded the party in 2015. He was inspired to do so by the song Bierpartei, performed by his punk band Turbobier, which includes the lyric: “If you like to be fat and drink a lot every day, then vote for us now, the Beer Party, we’ll abolish the alcohol tax”. The party’s website notes that “nobody can really remember the exact events of that day”.
As well as the boozy fountain in the Austrian capital, the party’s drinks-themed proposals include (but are not limited to):
- “For the purpose of better networking between local restaurateurs and local politics, the creation of a gastronomy network.”
- “The long overdue banning of all mixed beer drinks from public spaces…”
- The abolition of mandatory closing times for bars and restaurants.
- The abolition of taxes on drinks in bars and restaurants (compensated for with a new 50% tax on Radlers and “other atrocities”.)
- “Live and let live (except Radler drinkers).”
The popularity of these drinks-focused policies makes sense when one considers that, per capita, Austrians are (as of 2020) the second biggest beer consumers in the world, knocking back an average of 96.8 litres of the stuff per annum.
However, the “joke” party certainly has some serious ambitions beyond the beer. The party has advocated for investment in Vienna’s public transport and sports facilities and has adopted a progressive stance on trans rights and the environment.
To gauge whether or not this current popularity could translate into power, db spoke with political data analyst and Make Votes Matter co-founder Owen Winter: “This polling, showing support for the Beer Party at 10%, would mean a significant breakthrough if it were replicated in Austria’s next legislative election. To win representation under the Austrian electoral system, a party needs 4% of the vote or to win a single local district. With 10% of the vote, the Beer Party could expect to see as many as 19 MPs, overtaking the more established Green Party.”
The party has had electoral success before, in the 2020 Vienna state and local council elections it gained 1.8% of the vote, receiving 11 mandates in district councils.
“While Austria has a history of minor parties crossing the threshold – for example Peter Pilz List in 2017 and Team Stronach in 2013 – it has never had such strong support for a satirical party,” Winter continued. “Minor parties frequently fail to establish themselves, dropping out of the National Council entirely by the next election.”
The popularity of a beer-themed political party is not without precedent. The now defunct Polish Beer-Lovers’ Party won 16 seats in Poland’s lower house in the 1991 elections, similar parties also sprung up in Norway, Russia, Belarus and Czechia, though none achieved quite the same success.
“The possibility of the Beer Party becoming a lasting political force depends on its ability to continue capitalising on dissatisfaction with mainstream parties, or to create a more credible platform. There are some signs that the party’s leader – Marco Pogo, third placed candidate in October’s presidential election – is trying to achieve this. He has pushed ‘future-oriented’ policy making, internationalism, and opposition to the far-right (alongside the party’s traditional enemy – Radler drinkers).”
Beer and politics don’t always mix. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer got into hot water after he was snapped drinking a San Miguel in Durham during lockdown.