Nationalist Freedom party prescribes tint of Sundays election, as Social Democrats defiled by dirty tricks strategy
Austrian politics is set to tip to the right less than a year after forestalling a far-right presidency by the populist Freedom party, with the party on track to emerge as bloc kingmaker in Sunday’s national elections.
Though currently fighting for second place behind 31 -year-old Sebastian Kurz of the centre-right Austrian People’s party( OVP ), the Freedom party has managed to dictate the agenda of awareness-raising campaigns centred mainly around immigration and dreads of progressive Islam, and will receive a last-stretch lift from a ” grimy campaigning “ row between the conventional core parties.
Neither Kurz nor incumbent chancellor Christian Kern of the centre-left SPO have ruled out entering a bloc with the Freedom party, whose current president Heinz-Christian Strache could become the first European politician with a neo-Nazi background to sit in government since the second world war.
If it participates government, the Freedom party wants to disavow migrants access to welfare payments, introduce Swiss-style referendums and pushed forward Austria to assembled the Visegrad radical of center European governments whose borders overlap with the 19 th-century Austro-Hungarian empire.
FPO politician Norbert Hofer, who was beaten in the race for the Austrian presidency by Green-backed Alexander van der Bellen in December 2016, will be pushed by the party as presidential candidates for the foreign ministry.
Founded by a former Nazi functionary and SS member after the end of the second world war, the Freedom party grew the first rightwing populist party to form part of both governments in postwar Europe when its late manager Jorg Haider entered a alliance with the conservative OVP in 2000- a that which was at the time met with outrage and economic sanctions from Israel and several EU member states.
A split in 2005 and Haider’s death in a car clang three years later appeared to have signalled the end of the anti-immigration defendant, hitherto 12 year later FPO agents is not simply self-confident of outstripping their best the consequences of the Haider times but have managed to turn Austria into what political scientists call a” net seller of rightwing populism”, pioneering strategies later adopted by far-right parties elsewhere in Europe.
Under the leadership of Strache, who was arrested by German police as a 20 -year-old for were participating in a procession organised by a censored neo-Nazi gesture simulated on the Hitler Youth, the FPO has professionalised its methods and swopped its campaign from broad-minded anti-foreigner sentiment to a more focused anti-Islam hyperbole as early as 2006.
For this year’s national elections, the party developed not conventional campaign ads but a short sitcom series called ” The Hubers”, which voices suspicions about welfare tourism and overcrowding to the resound of laugh without ever explicitly mentioning immigration.
” In terms of programme, the FPO have had an excellent safarus ,” said Thomas Hofer, an Austrian communication consultant.” They have managed to go on the two attacks without looking like they are going over the top .”
Kurz’s candidacy- which has in itself been quite rightwing- appears to have dented the Freedom party’s riches. The foreign minister prides himself on having delivered an result to the refugee crisis by closing the Balkan roadway in 2016 and pledges to reform the asylum method so that claimants in the future are handled via” recovery centres” outside the European Union. Predicts to fight political Islam feature heavily in Kurz’s manifesto.
Having produced the polls by a considerable margin since spring 2015, the Freedom party was leapfrogged by the OVP and the SPO after Kurz announced his run for chancellor during the summer. But political commentators argue that this has only prepared it easier for the rightwing populists to frame Austrian political debate.
” If they had been top of the polls at the start of awareness-raising campaigns, it would have been a nightmare for the FPO- they had no experience with that situation. But sitting outside third place has allowed them to dictate the orders of the day ,” Thomas Hofer said.
The OVP and the SPO, who have decided Austria in a “grand coalition” for the last 10 years, have further facilitated the Freedom party’s generate, indicated Nina Horaczek, a reporter for Viennese weekly Der Falter and scribe of a profile of the Freedom party’s leader.
She said:” At first, the two centre defendants neglected Strache. Then they demonised him. But eventually they adopted his positions. That has dented their credibility. And the problem is that if they tack to the right, Strache can always go one pace further .”
While Kurz has pushed for fines for immigrants who refuse to take part in consolidation trends at institutions, the FPO’s manifesto asks scrapping integration routes for asylum seekers altogether.
In the case of Austria’s Social Democrats, credibility was further undermined by the revelation that an adviser working for Christian Kern’s party had created a group of websites churning out racist and antisemitic plot hypothesis in order to discredit Sebastian Kurz in the eyes of far-right supporters.
The shows around the so-called Schmutzkubel ( dirt bucket) liaison have applied the SPO on the back foot and unable to onslaught the Freedom party for their own negative campaigning and use of antisemitic rhetoric. On his Facebook page, Strache has repeatedly linked to sections which identify Hungarian-American financier George Soros as the shadowy instigator behind the refugee crisis or sanctions against Russia, similar to those apparently created by the dishonored SPO adviser.
Observers such as political scientist Christoph Hofinger believe that the Austrian left had failed to take the right measures to stop the recall of the rightwing populists even before the” grime campaigning” affair.
” Alexander Van der Bellen showed that you can win an election with awareness-raising campaigns built around a thought of all-inclusive, pro-European national identity ,” said Hofinger, administrator of consulting conglomerate SORA.” But the working party on the left never earnestly tried to understand how a Dark-green candidate managed to get over 50% of the voting rights .”
In a TV dispute between Strache and Kern on Monday, the Social Democrat been recognized that Austria should have provided restrictions for jobseekers from brand-new eastern European level of member states beyond 2011.” Kern could have framed his reply differently ,” said Hofinger.” He could have pointed out that the tourism industry in Tyrol or the care arrangement would have collapsed without migration from the East .”
In the same debate, Kern was asked if he would consider recruiting a bloc with Strache’s FPO.” As this debate has shown, we are macrocosms apart ,” replied the incumbent chancellor, without explicitly answering the issues to. Formerly the cameras had been turn off the light, Kern and his political resist Strache disappeared into a veiled angle of the studio’s balcony, for a cigarette and a long chat.