Freedom Party’s electoral success to further boost popular nationalist movements across Europe
With 10 days until the Austria’s election, the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) is surging in polls. According to the pollsters, the party could win up to 25 per cent of the vote in October 15 parliamentary election. Such a strong showing at the ballot box could propel the party to the position of kingmaker as a junior coalition party in the next conservative government.
The conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) is currently leading the polls with 33 percent, while the left-wing Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the Freedom Party are competing for second spot with roughly 25 percent of the projected vote.
The Freedom Party is opposed to the growing Islamic influence in the country and is running on the promise to stop the uncontrolled immigration from Arab and Muslim countries. Earlier this year, the leader of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache told his supporters that Austria should “quickly put an end to this policy of Islamization […] otherwise we Austrians, we Europeans will come to an abrupt end.”
The liberal European establishment reeling from the shock of right-wing AfD party’s success in last month’s German election would be shattered if the Freedom Party were to join Austria’s next ruling coalition. “If the European establishment is worried about the election success of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), [Austrian Elections] are set to send shockwaves across the bloc,” writes the British newspaper Daily Express.
London-based newspaper Financial Times describes Freedom Party’s possible path to power:
If it achieves such a result [around 25 percent of the vote], the Freedom party may enter Austria’s next government. It could join hands with the conservative People’s party (ÖVP), which is favourite to win the elections, or possibly with the Social Democrats (SPÖ), if they were to score a surprise victory. Unlike in France, Germany and the Netherlands, Austria’s mainstream parties will face no political taboo in flirting with the populist right. The ÖVP governed with the Freedom party from 2000 to 2006.
Last year, the Freedom Party’s presidential candidate Norbert Hofer came very close to winning the country’s presidency. Hofer won 46.2 percent of the vote, only to be defeated by the Green Party’s candidate Alexander Van der Bellen. The Freedom Party’s electoral gains have forced the mainstream parties to take up tougher stance against illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism.
Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern, a Social Democrat, has backed the move to cut social welfare for migrants if they turn down job offers. The Freedom Party has long been demanding similar welfare cuts to make the country less attractive for economic migrants. Earlier this month, a nationwide ban on the Islamic burqa came into effect with the backing of all the major Austrian party’s — an endorsement of the long-standing demand put forward by the Freedom Party to banish the Sharia-mandated female attire from public places.
It is certainly a positive move if the political establishment in certain European countries enacts common-sense policies with regards to mass migration and political Islam, even when it’s done solely to keep the nationalist and anti-establishment forces at bay. However, Europe’s slow learning curve comes at a very heavy price.
A survey commissioned by the city of Vienna last year found that one-third of the Muslim youth in Austria’s capital city supported radical Islamist views and “sympathized” with Jihad terrorism. The uncontrolled immigration from Muslim-majority countries means that issues that plague the country’s Muslim population will soon become the problem for the rest of the country. Within one generation Islam will surpass Christianity in Austria’s capital of Vienna, a study conducted by the prestigious Vienna Institute of Demography claims.
Regardless of the outcome of the October 15 vote, Austria and Europe are already teetering on the edge of the precipice. The continent could have somehow dealt with its lower birth rates, but an imported population that has failed to integrate itself in the host country, let alone assimilate, poses a whole new set of challenges and conflicts. Whatever one may think of rise of the popular nationalist parties and movements, they certainly have got the diagnosis right. The Freedom Party’s electoral success would further boost this pan-European trend.
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