Far-right sentiment grows ahead of Austrian election

World Today

AUSTRIA-POLITICS-VOTE-HOFERNorbert Hofer, presidential candidate of Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party, FPOE, speaks during his last election campaign rally in Vienna, Austria on December 2, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR)

As governments of the world swing right, Austria is poised to follow suit. A re-run of a presidential poll could see Europe’s first far-right head-of-state since World War Two.

CCTV’s Guy Henderson reports from the Freedom Party stronghold of Wels.

Follow Guy Henderson on Twitter @guyhendersonde

If kids at Wels’ publicly-run kindergartens don’t speak enough German, extra help is now at hand. When the town’s far right-wing mayor was voted in last year, he backed a project to offer language support to immigrants.

Municipal authorities claim around a quarter of Wels’ 60,000 residents are from an immigrant background. It’s also a stronghold of the anti-immigrant Freedom Party – who’s candidate could become Austria’s next president on Sunday.

Andreas Rabl, Freedom Party Mayor of Wels, backs helping those who’ve come – but stopping any more from arriving.

“There is an international campaign that every opinion that differs from the establishment is condemned to be morally wrong. We say – no we don’t want this,” says Rabl. “There is a witch hunt against the Freedom Party to scare people off.”

The strongest critics of the party founded by former Nazis have said in the past it should be banned.

The populist right have governed Austria at national level in the past. In the 1980s, it was short -lived because mainstream parties were able to hold up the strength of the economy as a reason for continuity. But in 2000, immigration was already higher on the political agenda. The establishment saw little choice but to accommodate the Freedom Party in a coalition government that lasted six years. In 2016, the mood is far more hostile.

Friedhelm Frischenschlager, former Austrian Defense Minister, predicts a bumpy political road ahead.

“We have to fight back. The open society and the pluralistic democracy is in danger. To tell the public – ‘my fatherland first’ and this in 27 or 28 countries – brings us back to the political situation between the two wars.”

Philippe LeCorre on European politics 

For a detailed look at today’s European politics, CCTV America’s Asieh Namdar spoke with Philippe LeCorre, who is a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Author of “L’offensive Chinoise en Europe”.