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L-R: City Councilor for Healthcare Robert Krotzer, Mayor Elke Kahr, KPÖ representative Claudia Klimt-Weithaler, City Councilor Manfred Eber, Source: Elke Kahr on Facebook

Local representatives in Graz donated 215,000 euros to those in need

Local representatives in Graz donated 215,000 euros to those in need

For the last 20 years, elected members of the Communist Party in Austria (KPÖ) have been donating the majority of their salaries

Yesterday, the new mayor of Graz, in Austria, Elke Kahr invited citizens in need of money to come to the Styrian Communists Party (KPÖ) ‘Open Accounts Day’ (Tag der offenen Konten) event. The ‘Open Accounts Day’ represents a proverbial charity ‘pot’, where federal, state and municipal representatives from the Communist Party donate about two-thirds of their salaries to help vulnerable people.

By the end of the year, the donations pot would have distributed around 215,000 euros to citizens. According to Mayor Kahr, despite municipal and government social programmes, there are many people in need of non-bureaucratic money.

Why do the Styrian Communists give away their salaries?

Representatives of the Styrian branch of the KPÖ started giving away the majority of their salaries in 1998, with Ernest Kaltenegger, a local party member and former city councillor in Graz showing the way. The practice stuck and became sort of a staple of local politics, with the aim of bringing KPÖ politicians closer to the troubles of the most vulnerable members of society. Since then, the party has donated nearly 2.6 million euros.

According to ORF, City Councillors, in particular, are keeping only 2,000 euros from their 6,100-euro salaries, while Mayor Kahr will take home a modest 2,200 euros from her increased mayoral salary.

When answering allegations about populism, Elke Kahr explained that, on the one hand, most of the people they end up donating to are not eligible to vote anyway. Furthermore, she said that most of her colleagues join in out of conviction, rather than because of opportunism.

She also pointed out that if a local leader earns significantly more than the average wage in the city, there is a risk of detached elitism from the issues lording over citizens' lives.

More people in need than ever before

The Graz Communists have been in opposition in the local government since the 1950s and now that they are in control, donating salaries seems like placing a bandage on a dysfunctional social system, which fails its citizens.

The Graz ruling coalition between the KPÖ, the Greens and the Social Democrats (SPÖ) has a similar view on things and has thus proposed a major social expansion during their term. One of the first measures they have implemented for 2022 is a suspension of fee hikes on municipal services like garbage collection and municipal rents.

Mayor Kahr has called on the federal government to impose price caps on certain food items and energy prices, citing France as an example as well as advice from the EU Commission. She continued by explaining that the prolonged economic damage brought on by the pandemic has led to a sustained loss of savings and citizens are craving some form of economic relief.

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