Monday, May 23, 2016

Austrian Voters Narrowly Decide Not To Revisit Their Country's Nazi Past By Electing Their Version Of Trump


DWT readers weren't taken by surprise by the near win this weekend-- counting 700,000 absentee ballots flipped the final outcome today-- that would have put a neo-Nazi in Austria's presidential race. Sunday it looked as though Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer won 51.9% of the vote in a run-off with an independent backed by the Green Party, Alexander Van der Bellen, the two corrupt mainstream p[arty candidates having been eliminated in April. But after the absentee ballots were counted, the final result was 50.3% for Van der Bellen and 49.7% for Hofer. Voters were sick of the tweedle-dee/tweedle-dum politics of the right of center People's Party and the slightly left of center Social Democrats-- and their corrupt, inept Grand Coalition-- and almost opted for a far right extremist. Instead of comparing him to Hitler though, the European press is calling Hofer Austria's Donald Trump. Exit polls showed that van der Bellen won 81% of voters with college educations and Hofer won 86% of the Austrian working class. In the end, just 31,000 voters, out of 4.6 million votes cast, separated the two candidates.

The Nazis have no intention of giving up. Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the Freedom party, wrote on his Facebook page: "This is just the beginning. The start of a new era in our democracy, towards more direct democracy and binding referenda." The Guardian reported that during "the election, Viennese coffee houses set aside separate areas for supporters of the rival candidates over fears of clashes.
During his campaign, Hofer has been compared to Donald Trump for his anti-immigration stance, carried a 9mm glock with him everywhere he goes, and has claimed increases in gun ownership in Austria are linked to immigration.

...Hofer's key message is one of immigration control. Last year, roughly 90,000 migrants settled in Austria, a number Hofer sees as far too high. He has promised to try and curb further migration from outside of Europe and has also reportedly vowed to carry out the deportation of Muslims.

Hofer has also advocated repatriating the Italian territory of South Tyrol, which was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Hofer proposed the idea in a speech in 2015 and has since said that one way of achieving this could be to give people in the area dual Italian and Austrian nationality.

Hofer is a huge advocate for guns, carrying a 9mm Glock pistol around with him on the campaign trail.

He has said that he understands the increase in gun ownership in Austria, "given current uncertainties," and says that gun ownership is a "natural consequence" of immigration. It is reported that Hofer has previously posted images on social media of him at a firing range with his family. Business Insider was unable to find these pictures.

Hofer has been described by some commentators as the "Austrian Donald Trump" for his strong stance on immigration, populist politics, and promises to put "Austria First," a slogan that it has been suggested, draws inspiration from Trump's famous "Make America Great Again" battle cry.

  ...It has been suggested that Hofer would be the first far-right head of state in Europe since the end of World War II. While this is not strictly true because of Spain's Francisco Franco, who ruled the country as a fascist dictator until 1975, Hofer is by far the most right-wing politician to be elected to office in many decades.

Austria's presidency is a ceremonial role, and the most important power held by the president is the ability to dissolve Austria's parliament. But Hofer has already said he would try to extend his powers.

He vowed that once elected, he will go to Brussels to attend European Union meetings, something that is generally reserved for Austria's chancellor, currently Christian Kern. Hofer said he would also refuse to sign the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal, as he believes it would infringe on Austria's sovereignty.

...One of the biggest concerns in some circles about Hofer's potential election is that it could help to galvanise other far-right parties across Europe. Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's Front National is expected to reach the second round of next year's presidential election, while in Germany, Alternative for Deutschland-- an anti-Islamic party-- has also experienced a gain in popularity. The Netherlands has also seen a rise in the popularity of the Party of Freedom, which now tops the polls. The party is headed by Geert Wilders, who was banned from entering the UK for his role in creating anti-Islamic film Fitna.

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