Far right gains in Austrian presidential race – ‘Turning point in country’s politics’
Norbert Hofer of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO) came first with 36 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections. That’s not enough to avoid a run-off on May 22.
RT: The presidential post is largely ceremonial is Austria, so is it really likely the Freedom Party's first-round success will have any wider impact on Austrian politics?
Alexander Markovics: I think these elections are somehow a turning point in Austrian politics since it marks the end of the… domination of the socialists and the conservatives.
RT: The Freedom party's former leader notoriously praised the Nazi SS. The current candidate Norbert Hofer brandished a gun on the campaign trail. Is that really the 21st century image Austria wants for itself?
AM: I don’t think that this is the image of politics in the 21st century, especially since Norbert Hofer … [distances himself] from fascism and National Socialism… Today, in the 21st century, [FPO] is nothing more than an ordinary picture of a patriotic party in Europe, which tries to tackle the influences of globalization, the EU, and mass migration of course.
RT: Hofer says he'll stick to his anti-immigrant agenda and toughen security. How significant is that point, do you think, given the votes that the candidate got over the weekend for the Freedom Party? Do you think that it was his stance on immigration that won him so many votes?
AM: Yes, absolutely, because we are now facing a huge crisis in Austria regarding immigration since last summer. The governing parties didn’t do anything to control this situation. Since the FPO is on the rise they are trying to take over some measures proposed by the FPO to gain some voters back, but they are not gaining back any voters. They are actually losing even more and more, because they are viewed as incompetent on security questions and also the immigration question in Austria.
RT: Isn't it disingenuous to say this is all about immigration? Shouldn’t Europe be trying to find a solution, where it can accommodate at least some?
AM: Actually they are trying to find a solution and they only want to give the real refugees shelter as Austria did in the last decades. What we are now facing is huge economic immigration. The security situation deteriorated terribly in Austria. Just two days ago an Austrian girl was raped by three Afghan migrants at Praterstern, one of the main train stations in Austria.
I think there is no possibility of taking any more immigrants, but to stop immigration and then to call for remigration of those who entered our country illegally since the security situation is totally out of hand.
RT: The candidate who came second is Alexander van der Bellen who’s backed by the Greens and who's very much pro-refugee. A huge amount of voters support him. Does it suggest that Austrians are divided over the refugee crisis?
AM: Absolutely. We’re also witnessing division of Austrian society. But the advantage of Norbert Hofer is that there is no majority at the extreme left in Austria. So I think he will win the elections and I hope so, since the immigration policies of Alexander van der Bellen are totally insane and he is also calling for [creating] a United States of Europe. So he is really a dangerous man.
RT: However, many people say that they are afraid of the far right, because they know the history of the far right in Europe, don’t they?
AM: I can totally understand, when you’re afraid of the far right in Europe, but Norbert Hofer is actually not a part of the far right, but he is more like an ordinary patriot. It’s just the political climate in Europe, which has shifted that much to the extreme left or to extreme liberal center… so that every patriot looks like a far-right politician. But in fact he is not a far-right politician, but an ordinary patriot, who wants to restore order in the current migration chaos, which affects the whole continent.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.