Austria: A Clear Repudiation of Far Right — by Karel Ludenhoff

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austria-1Summary: Austria’s presidential election showed a repudiation of the Far Right, of xenophobia, and of Islamophobia, as well as the duplicity of the mainstream Austrian People’s Party (500w) — Editors


The people of Austria have made unmistakably clear in the election for a new president that they have distanced themselves from the candidate of the right-wing FPŐ (Freedom Party of Austria), Norbert Hofer, who got about 46% of the votes. A majority voted for Alexander Van der Bellen, a more or less autonomous candidate, who got about 54% of the votes. Circa 6.4 million people (those 16 and older) were eligible to vote and the turnout was a just over 74%.

Because none of the traditional big parties in Austria, the SPŐ (Austrian Social Democratic Party) and the conservative ŐPV (Austrian People’s Party), could run their own candidate in this election due to losing in the first round, there was room for Van der Bellen to run with the support of the Green Party (of which he was once a member), the SPŐ and some parts of the ŐPV, although the latter party is skillful in machinations with the FPŐ as was demonstrated by the open support of Reinhold Lopatka, leader of the ŐPV in the Austrian parliament, for Hofer. Nothing is more misleading in the name of the FPŐ, as the notion of “freedom” for this right-wing populist party includes all sorts of right-wing forces and connections with (neo) fascist groups.

Austria is a relatively small country. It has about 8.5 million inhabitants, with a Gross National Product of circa 430 billion USD. As to the composition of the economy, employment in trade, traffic, state and services constitutes nearly 70%, with industry, mining and energy comprising a little bit more than 28.5% and in agriculture and forestry about 1.5%. (Figures are from 2013.)

What makes this election significant and why was it in the European spotlight?

Despite Austria’s small size, it has a central location in Europe, through which a stream of refugees from the Middle East, being on the run from war, tried to reach Germany and other countries in the Northern Europe. The FPŐ and other right-wing forces took up this issue in order to stir up a witchhunt against refugees, to promote xenophobia, and to stoke up (with the ŐPV) measures against poor people in Austria. In this election, Hofer was more or less the representative of this policy.

>Whatever Van der Bellen will bring, the result of this election is a repudiation of witchhunts and of those who instigate xenophobia. It is a victory for all progressive and humanistic people inside and outside Austria. Moreover, it offers a chance to reinforce the message of the demonstrations in Vienna over the final two Saturdays before the election, in which solidarity with refugees and the involvement of Hofer in ultra right-wing circles were the central elements.

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