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The Minister in Austria (Erhardt) to the Secretary of State

confidential

1361. In yesterday’s elections People’s Party won 77 mandates, Socialists 67, Union of Independents 16, Left Block 5. Final figures [Page 1234]and percentages not yet available but it appears both coalition parties lost about equally to Union of Independents, Left Block gained slightly, especially in Vienna where it won a basic mandate.

Although coalition parties still have overwhelming majority and results can therefore be regarded as victory for democracy and moderation, the most notable features of election were (1) slight Communist gain, in spite of probability Communists did not get proportion of new voters, which indicates that at least in Vienna Schaerf won over some left-wing Socialists; (2) loss of absolute People’s Party majority; (3) marked swing to the right, with heavy Socialist losses especially in Vienna; (4) strength of Union of Independents, which got basic mandates in all six Western provinces and all but three Western election districts. The latter feature is most important, since Union could now give either major party a majority.

As long as major parties continue cooperation, stability of government is assured but (1) Socialist loss to Left Block was probably partially due to dissatisfaction of rank and file with coalition policy, and Socialists may feel that to recoup their losses a more vigorous policy is necessary, also their weak showing may make it more difficult to hold followers; (2) more likely, right-wing element within People’s Party which supported policy of wooing ex-Nazis may, now that this policy has failed, urge cooperation with Union of Independents at expense of Socialists. Socialist weakness and possibility of majority without them offers constant temptation to right-wingers in People’s Party to push measures which Socialists cannot accept. Union of Independents represents extreme right, and cooperation between it and People’s Party could force split in coalition. Fortunately, there is no sign of such cooperation yet, coalition government will probably be formed and situation remain unchanged for the present, but gains of left and especially right at expense of center justify vigilance in future, although not undue alarm.

Erhardt