The reason for the rise of populist parties in Austria?

Austria is voting in a general election on Sunday 15 October and the frontrunner is Sebastian Kurz of the conservative People’s Party. In May he became head of his party and now he is surging ahead in the polls.

According to a BBC report, aged only 31 years old, and currently Austria’s foreign minister, Kurtz is being called the “wunderwuzzi” – the wonder hot-shot. So what is the main reason for his popularity – his party’s hard line against migrants. During the 2015 migrant crisis, Austria took in 90 thousand migrants.

Running close on its heels and with the possibility of forming a coalition is the Freedom Party,  led by Karl-Heinz Strache – that according to an article in the Guardian (11.10.2017), ‘has managed to dictate the agenda of a campaign centred largely around immigration and fears of radical Islam, and will receive a last-stretch boost from a “dirty campaigning” row between the traditional centre parties. If it enters government, the Freedom party wants to deny migrants access to welfare payments, introduce Swiss-style referendums and push for Austria to join the Visegrád group of central European states whose borders overlap with the 19th-century Austro-Hungarian empire.’

The article goes on to say,

‘Kurz’s candidacy – which has in itself been quite rightwing – appears to have dented the Freedom party’s fortunes. The foreign minister prides himself on having brought an end to the refugee crisis by closing the Balkan route in 2016 and vows to reform the asylum system so that claimants in the future are processed via “rescue centres” outside the European Union. Promises to fight political Islam feature heavily in Kurz’s manifesto.’

So, all in all, this is a very good sign that Europeans are now expressing their rejection of the EU’s migration policies at the ballot box and this will eventually filter through to Brussels with elected representatives being sent there as representatives of the people’s demands. Should the populist parties achieve the success predicted for them this Sunday, then the push back against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door immigration policies has become that much stronger.

Links:

BBC video: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-41601364/austria-elections-the-31-year-old-who-could-be-leader

Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/11/austria-faces-swerve-to-the-right-as-populist-party-dictates-election-agenda?CMP=share_btn_link

 

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