‘We’re center right, not far right’ – Austria’s Freedom party

Austrian far right Freedom Party (FPOe) party leader Heinz-Christian Strache (L) and Freedom Party's presidential candidate Norbert Hofer © Leonhard Foeger
Right-wing parties are gaining popularity across the EU as people don’t trust European politicians anymore, because they don’t give the answers citizens want, said Barbara Kappel MEP, from the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria.

Austria's constitutional court has overturned the result of May's presidential election and decided it must be held again. It saw independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen narrowly grab victory over the right-wing Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer. Some media have been celebrating it as a victory against the far-right and an escape from neo-fascism. Hofer was labeled “a wolf in sheep's clothing,” “the Donald Trump of Europe,” and “the friendly face of the far-right.” However, he repeatedly said he is merely a patriot, not a neo-fascist.

RT discussed Friday’s court ruling and the party’s further plans with MEP Barbara Kappel.

RT: You were together with Norbert Hofer listening to today's verdict. We could see how surprised and happy you were. What were your thoughts? Was it really a surprise?

Barbara Kappel: I have to correct you we are not a far-right party; we are a center-right party. Of course we’re very happy today that the Austrian Constitutional Court accepted or confirmed our points of charges for this presidential election. The runoff ballot will be repeated, and we’re very happy about that.

RT: Why have you attracted all this attention? Many people are calling you far-right, almost neo-Nazi. What has led to that?

BK: In Austria we have a media system that is very strongly financed by the government. It is good to keep the major opposition party down by [making such statements]. I am really working on that to correct that. All of my colleagues are doing the same thing. So it is important for us to state that we are a center-right party. We are very happy that today the constitutional court gave us a right to repeat the runoff ballot of the elections.

RT: Do you think you’ll be able to win this time?

BK: He didn’t manage last time – there was a difference of something like 30,000 votes. We are sure that we will be able to make it this time.

RT: What can you bring to your country? What is it that is good about your party that people didn’t quite buy into last time?

BK: What we can bring is reform. Our country needs structural reforms. We are falling back in all the international rankings. Our country needs these reforms; needs to do that together with reforms on the EU level. Our party is running for that and is standing for that, and people appreciate that.

RT: Brexit was happy news to your ears, wasn’t it?

BK: Not really I have to say. We would have preferred to have our British colleagues in the reform process as members of the EU. I was not at all happy about this news. But of course we have to accept the vote of the British citizens…

RT: Why are right-wing parties gaining popularity across the EU at the moment?

BK: I think that people do not trust European politicians anymore. People say the EU is not in the position to manage the migrant crisis, to manage the financial crisis, and they do not get the answers they need to have. We really want to work on that; we want to create that trust. We need reforms for that; we need a solution to the migrant crisis. If politics cannot supply and provide this solution, people will be supporting other parties.

RT: If you had your say, you’d want see Austria remaining in the EU, wouldn’t you?

BK: Yes, but with the reforms.

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.