The elections in Austria have shown a sharp move to the right. They are a further warning of the danger of the far right exploiting the bitterness in society.
The leading position, the chancellor, is set to be taken by Sebastian Kurz, of the right wing Conservative People’s Party (OVP). Preliminary results show the OVP with around 31.5 percent of the vote. Two parties are close for second place.
One is the fascist Freedom Party (FPO)—whose founders included former Nazis, and whose first leader was a former Nazi cabinet minister and SS officer.
The other was the Labour-type Social Democratic Party (SPO).
The FPO were polling at about 27.5 percent on Monday moring and the SPO 27 percent.
FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache told a recent election rally that “Islam is not part of Austria”.
Strache has tried to clean up the party’s image. But last month a group commemorating victims of the Nazis published a list of what it said were at least 60 antisemitic andracist incidents involving FPO figures since 2013.
Anti-racists took to the streets in Sunday night demanding that the FPO not be allowed into government.
David Albrich, a leading member of revolutionary socialist organisation Neue Linkswende, said, “The problem in Austria is not "political Islam". The problem is that racism has penetrated deeply into all established parties.”
The most likely coalition will see Kurz offer key cabinet posts to the FPO as part of a coalition deal. He could renew the previous coalition with the SPO, but it is this coalition that has disillusioned voters.
The SPO cannot be outraged at the right going into coalition with the fascists as it did the same itself in 1983 and recently dropped a ban on forming a future coalition with the fascists.
The SPO has not been able to challenge the right because it has delivered nothing in office to its working class supporters.
There will need to be more protests against racism and austerity to beat back the right
Christian Kern, the SPO leader, said Austria had seen a “massive slide to the right”. But he took no responsibility for what had happened.
In May the other big party of the centre left, the Greens, expelled its youth wing which then formed an alliance with the Communist Party.
The Greens, who took 12.5 percent in the 2013 elections, look unlikely to reach the 4 percent threshold this time.
Kurz took over the OVP party leadership in May, committing himself to a vicious anti-refugee policy. He gave legitimacy to the FPO by accepting huge chunks of its programme.
The OVP manifesto centred on targeting “political Islam”, cutting benefits for migrants, and cutting taxes—mainly for the rich.
He has called for a ban on Muslim kindergartens and argued that migrants rescued in the Mediterranean should be sent back to Africa. As foreign minister, Kurz was key in pushing through a “burka ban”.
There will need to be more protests against racism and austerity to beat back the right.