Austrian president blocks far-right politicians from key positions

The Federal President has never been an enthusiast of the of Freedom Party (FPÖ). Recently, he named particular FPÖ politicians, whom he considers unfit for ministerial offices. And he is sticking to his guns.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Austrian president blocks far-right politicians from key positions - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

The Austrian President, Alexander Van der Bellen is openly critical of the idea that, following recent elections, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) might enter the government. He has repeatedly intervened in the coalition talks, which the winner of the elections, the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), is currently holding with the Freedom Party (FPÖ). The Federal President made it clear that he does not want to see the key Foreign and Interior Ministries in the hands of FPÖ politicians.

Recently, he also named the specific FPÖ representatives whom he refuses to appoint as ministers. The first one is the vice-mayor of Vienna, Johann Gudenus. The other one, Harald Vilimsky, is a MEP and a high profile far-right politician in Brussels. Both are currently sitting at the future coalition’s negotiating table. Why is the president so adamant about them? The reasons are as numerous as they are convincing.

In her analysis, Der Standard editor, Nina Weissensteiner, examines the past of the the two FPÖ politicians. To her, "it is clear that Gudenus, born in 1976, a graduate of the Diplomatic Academy and a member of the fraternity Vandalia, was once the chairman of the Ring Freiheitlicher Jugend Österreich -- a far-right youth organization inspired by the national socialist ideology. In March 2004, faced with the growing number of immigrants of various ethnicities in Austria, the then 27-year-old told the media:

‘Just like the German language, our people are threatened. We need systematic Umvolkung to put an end to it!’” Enough to say that Umvolkung, or 're-germanisation', is a term straight from the nazi dictionary.

As for the other FPÖ politician, whom Van der Bellen considers ineligible for a ministerial office, Harald Vilimsky is the deputy chairman of the ENF, the right-wing, eurosceptic alliance in the European Parliament. Among its 37 members are representatives of the French Front National, the Italian Lega Nord and the Belgian Vlaams Belang.

The Freedom Party has a hard time ignoring the president. Formally, he has a strong role in forming the Austrian government. Article 70 of the constitution states that "the federal chancellor and, at his proposal, the other members of the federal government are appointed by the federal president."

On Wednesday evening, thousands of people gathered in the center of Vienna to protest against the potential coalition.

Details from the story:

  • The Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) is currently holding coalition talks with the Freedom Party (FPÖ).
  • The Austrian Federal President, Alexander Van der Bellen, is not a supporter of the potential coalition of ÖVP and FPÖ. He has repeatedly warned against the Foreign and Interior Ministries being controlled by the Freedom Party.
  • Recently, he has also named two FPÖ politicians, whom he would deny ministerial offices.
  • In Austria, the president has a strong role in forming the government.
  • On Wednesday evening, thousands of people gathered in Vienna's city center to protest against the potential coalition.
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