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L-R: Judith Schwenter (Greens), Elke Kahr (KPÖ) und Michael Ehmann (SPÖ) during the coalition agreement anouncement, Source: Fischer via the City of Graz

Here is what the new Communist mayor of Graz aims to do in her term

Here is what the new Communist mayor of Graz aims to do in her term

The Graz Communist Party will govern in a coalition with the Greens and the Socialists, that will push environmental issues through a social agenda, focusing on improving living standards for low-income groups

Today, the newly elected municipal council in Graz, Austria, voted in the new local administration. Elke Kahr became the first woman mayor and the first mayor from the Austrian Communist Party, the KPÖ (Kommunistische Partei Österreichs).

In an unexpected turn of events, during the September election, Elke Kahr and the KPÖ were able to beat the longstanding incumbent mayor Siegfried Nagl of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). After that, the KPÖ were able to form a coalition with the Greens and the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) around key social issues, as well as ecological issues.

“Together for a new Graz”

Last week, the new coalition presented their programme titled “Together for a new Graz. Social. Climate-friendly. Democratic.” (Gemeinsam für ein neues Graz. Sozial. Klimafreundlich. Demokratisch.). The programme focuses on social issues, housing and measures aiming to tackle climate change through robust social services.

Elka Kahr described it as a new chapter for Graz “against injustice and exploitation”. She continued by elaborating on the guiding principles of the new strategy, which include anti-fascism, the peace movement, the movement for women’s rights and the environmental movement.

One of the main focuses of the new programme is housing security through the scaled-up construction of social housing, coupled with an expansion to social services for the homeless. This expansion aims to focus primarily on low-income workers, the self-employed and students.

Mixing mobility and social issues

The new vice-mayor, Judith Schwentner, from the local branch of the Green Party explained that the new administration wants to steer clear from 'prestige projects' and dedicate itself to improving living standards. One of the projects on the agenda is a new tram line, that will become operational by 2025. The coalition sees this as a more practical solution in comparison to the ÖVP’s previous proposal to build a mini-metro.

Furthermore, they want to establish a programme through which the municipality will provide a bicycle for every child as both a mobility and social measure. They also plan to revise the zoning laws in Graz to allow for more green spaces and more transparency.

For the time being, the coalition will govern with a provisional budget, that is expected to drop in March of 2022, because of reduced municipal income. At the same time, their stated goal is to run a balanced account, so much of their programmes need to be properly spaced out in the coming months.

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