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Austria Moves to the Right
Austria Moves to the Right

Austria Moves to the Right

Austria’s shift to the right came after German voters last month punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for migrants, pushing her conservative bloc to its worst showing since 1949

Austria Moves to the Right

Austria’s shift to the right in a parliamentary election has paved the way for young conservative star Sebastian Kurz to become the country’s next leader and opened a path for the resurgent far right to return to power.
The People’s Party, which named 31-year-old Foreign Minister Kurz its leader only in May, secured a clear victory on Sunday with a hard line on immigration that left little space between it and the anti-Islam Freedom Party (FPO), Reuters reported.
That party was founded by former Nazis and is a sister to France’s National Front and Germany’s AfD, both of which were also buoyed by voter concerns about Europe’s migration crisis in 2015.
Kurz is well short of a majority and will probably need a coalition partner to govern. Having pledged to move away from often deadlocked coalitions with the center-left like the one currently in power, an alliance with the FPO is likely.
Austria was a gateway into Germany for more than a million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere in 2015. It made the neutral country fertile ground for parties out to halt the influx.
That propelled Kurz into first place ahead of his current coalition partners, Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats. The FPO and Social Democrats were in a close race for second that will be settled by a record number of postal ballots that were being counted on Monday.
Kurz champions tough enforcement of the EU’s borders and helped broker border restrictions through the Balkans that largely shut what was then the main migrant route into Europe. He has, however, kept his coalition options open.
“Neither a coalition with the FPO nor one with the SPO has been agreed,” Kurz told broadcaster ORF shortly after projections showed his party had won Sunday’s election.
But the likelihood of the FPO entering government with Kurz’s conservatives for the first time since 2000 concerned politicians across Europe.
At that time, a horrified European Union slapped short-lived sanctions on Austria for letting the FPO share power. It was then led by the late Joerg Haider, who gained infamy for praising the employment policies of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who was born in Austria.
Austria’s shift to the right came after German voters last month punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for migrants, pushing her conservative bloc to its worst showing since 1949 and putting the far-right AfD party in parliament.
Merkel said the strong FPO showing was a “big challenge” for other parties and she hoped for close cooperation with Kurz at a European level.
Alexander Lambsdorff, a senior member of Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats that are a possible coalition partner for Merkel, called the Austrian election results “a wake-up call for refugee policy that we finally have to organize together”.
“An orderly refugee policy is what people want, in Austria, in Germany, in other European countries.”
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto congratulated Kurz for his win, welcoming his stance on migration as close to that of Budapest. He said he expected anti-immigration eastern EU states Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to work more closely with Austria now.

 

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