Socialist Worker

Why did government collapse in Austria?

Issue No. 1818

AUSTRIA IS heading for a general election in November following the collapse last week of the Tory/far right government. The coalition's collapse is the result of a deepening polarisation between left and right.

The government was formed over two years ago after the far right Freedom Party of Jörg Haider came second to the Tory People's Party in elections. Some 300,000 people took to the streets in February 2000 to oppose the Freedom Party joining the government.

Haider, who has praised Hitler's SS, then stood down as leader. The Freedom Party included a range of right wing forces from Thatcherite businessmen to hardened fascists. The six Freedom Party government ministers were drawn from the 'moderate' wing of the party.

Over the last two years they have gone out of their way to sound little different from the Tories who dominate the coalition. The Thatcherite wing of the Freedom Party wanted to move it towards being a mainstream party.

Haider, however, wants to move it sharply towards the fascist right. Haider was impressed by the success of Jean-Marie Le Pen in France's presidential election.

He is now purging the Freedom Party's moderate wing. He is heading towards the elections with much reduced support in the polls - about 18 percent - but with the hope of hardening the Freedom Party into an anti-immigrant, far right force.

But the two years of Tory/far right government have pushed many people to the left. A 7,000-strong anti-capitalist demonstration in Salzburg against the European Economic Forum took place last Sunday.

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Sat 21 Sep 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1818
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