26 Oct 2017

Meet the far-right forces that could soon govern Austria

With the final results of the election came talks of a future coalition. Since Tuesday it's official -- the ÖVP and the FPÖ will try to form the next Austrian government. 

Julia Sahlender
Julia Sahlender Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Meet the far-right forces that could soon govern Austria - NewsMavens
Antisemitic graffiti. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

On Tuesday morning it was publicly announced that the election winner, the conservative ÖVP, will begin coalition talks with the right-wing FPÖ. What has long been discussed and was expected even before the election is now a reality. While it might take the two parties a while to agree on all relevant matters, it is pretty certain that they will form the next Austrian government.

The fact that Sebastian Kurz and his “new” ÖVP share a lot of values with FPÖ is the main indicator of that. The programs and the promises of the two parties were almost interchangeable during the last campaign. They agree on a lot of issues, and that should make the negotiations easier. But the FPÖ could strong-arm the ÖVP into giving them more of what they want. They could always threaten the ÖVP with forming a coalition with the SPÖ, which would leave the election winner out in the cold. This is quite unlikely though, as a coalition with the FPÖ is against a party-internal resolution of the SPÖ. So a center-right-wing coalition seems to be a done deal.

For now, no one knows what exactly that would entail. But one thing seems certain -- it will be a more conservative and restrictive government than before. Within the FPÖ, there are some far-right forces to be concerned about, that will now gain strength. The party won 51 mandates in the parliament, compared to 38 before the election. One of their demands in the coalition negotiations is the significant Federal Ministry of the Interior, responsible for the police and public security. A demand that, according to various sources, the current President Alexander Van der Bellen has reservations against.

 

Having examined the party and its members, the political scientist and member of the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance, Bernhard Weidinger estimates that around 40% of the FPÖ MPs are members of German National fraternities. And while the FPÖ has officially positioned itself against anti-semitism, these groups are committed to an ethnic-antisemitic ideology. Several members of these fraternities even have connections to deniers of the Holocaust and right-wing extremists. To think that politicians with such an ideology and worldview will soon be passing laws and making important decisions for the future of this country is more than uncomfortable.

Details from the story:

  • Only around 0.05% of the Austrian population are members of similar fraternities.  So the fact that around 40% of the FPÖ Members of Parliament are part of them, is a drastic overrepresentation.
  • While around half of the Austrian population are women, only nine of the 51 FPÖ mandates will be given to women.
  • The affirmation of the FPÖ towards a "German Folk-, Language- and Culture-Community" has been removed from the party's manifesto a few years back. But it was reinstated in the new version, drafted by Norbert Hofer.
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