Austrian parliamentary elections on Sunday could see the fascist Freedom Party return to government as part of a right wing coalition.
The conservative People’s Party—which has been part of every government for the last 30 years—is expected to win.
Its new leader, former foreign minister Sebastian Kurz, has tried to pose as an outsider shaking up politics.
This is helped by his relative youth—Kurz is just 31 years old.
But he has pursued a hard racist agenda to court the Freedom Party’s voters.
Kurz’s burqa ban came into force this month. As foreign minister he was instrumental in closing borders to refugees in 2015 and has vowed to halt “illegal” immigration.
Some commentators say that this is the way to beat the Freedom Party. But the fascists don’t see it that way.
Norbert Hofer, who nearly won Austria’s presidential election for the Freedom Party last year, told the Financial Times newspaper that being copied by other parties helped its image.
“You can no longer accuse us of being right wing extremists,” he said. “But we always say, the politics of the Freedom Party are best implemented by the Freedom Party.”
The Labour-type Social Democratic Party—in coalition with the People’s Party—isn’t helping either.
It responded to the election call by ending a 30-year ban on coalitions with the Freedom Party. It now imposes conditions on future coalition parties that, in practice, would still probably exclude the Freedom Party.
But the high profile change was calculated to tell Freedom Party voters that it no longer considered the party toxic.
The Social Democrats are being punished in the polls for delivering nothing in office to their working class supporters.
The other big party of the centre left, the Greens, in May expelled its youth wing which then formed an alliance with the Communist Party.
The Freedom Party’s entry into government in 2000 provoked mass protests.
More will be needed to stop it today.