Far Right makes electoral gains in Austria on anti-Muslim platform

Strache celebratesThe far Right has made a grand return in Austria, emerging from yesterday’s elections as the second biggest parliamentary block, according to preliminary results.

The two parties that campaigned on an anti-immigrant and anti-European Union ticket have captured about 29 per cent of the vote, pushing the country’s traditional conservative party into third place.

Heinz-Christian Strache [pictured] and his Freedom Party, who were accused of xenophobia and waging an anti-Muslim campaign, won 18 per cent – a rise of 7 per cent compared with the last elections. Mr Strache’s former mentor, Jörg Haider, won 11 per cent of the vote with his new party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria.

A throaty roar filled the Freedom Party’s election tent in Vienna when the results flashed up on a screen. The crowd – mainly young and middle-aged men drinking beer – punched the air in triumph. They cheered more when Mr Strache announced that his party would only join a government that was led by himself.

Many Viennese were horrified by such a prospect, however. “It is disappointing that so many Austrians agreed to what was basically a xenophobic campaign,” said Adelheid Mayr, 39. “I am ashamed of the results and I hope none of the far Right parties will be allowed to rule the country.”

Mr Strache, 39, the biggest winner of the day, had sought to exploit fear of foreigners and Islam during his campaign. Speaking at his final election rally in Vienna’s working-class district of Favoriten on Friday, he said that people were scared to see women in burkas running around “like female Ninjas”, and added: “Many decent people have come here and they integrated: Poles, Hungarians, Croats and also Serbs. We are all European brothers because we do not want to become Islamised.”

Mr Strache’s rally in Vienna last week was marred by a violent confrontation between hundreds of left-wing opponents and his far Right supporters, some of whom were jackbooted skinheads.

Times, 29 September 2008

Meanwhile, over at the Spectator, Mad Mel offers her insights into the rise of the far Right:

“Their success is due to the enormous feeling among the people of Europe against, on the one hand, the destruction of their powers of self-government and their assimilation into the undemocratic Euro superstate, and on the other the threat to western culture from Islamist conquest…. With no democratic party addressing these concerns and instead demonising legitimate nationalist feeling as ‘racist’, ‘xenophobic’ or ‘Islamophobic’, people are turning to parties which truly are racist, anti-foreigner, anti-Muslim, anti-Jew and sometimes, indeed, neo-Nazi, but which are exploiting this political vacuum….

“The awful thing is that, as the far-right advances and social disorder increases – as it will – muddled liberals and malign leftists will blame these political and social calamities on ‘the far right’. As a result, the steady encroachment of Islamism will proceed apace – and anyone who objects will also be demonised as ‘the far right’. The rise of the neo-Nazis will thus turn the defence of democracy toxic. There is therefore a danger that the only people who will be fighting the Islamic fascists and in defence of the nation against the supranational supremacists will be the fascists.

“If this truly frightful outcome is to be avoided, it is imperative that social democratic politicians in Britain and Europe wake up from their trance and realise just what it is they have to defend, and against whom.”