“ISLAM IS NOT PART OF AUSTRIA” is the underlying theme as Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, 31, and his conservative People’s Party (OVP) looked on course Sunday to become Europe’s youngest leader, likely in coalition with the anti-immigration right wing Freedom Party (FPO), after his conservative party was projected to come first in elections.
AFP Projections put Kurz’s People’s Party (OeVP) at 30.2 percent, followed by the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) at 26.8% and incumbent Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats (SPOe) at 26.3%.
WHAT’S BEHIND AUSTRIA’S RIGHTWARD DRIFT?
In a word— Muslim migrants. The 2015 influx of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria and poverty elsewhere into the EU’s prosperous heartland left Austria with nearly 100,000 new and mostly Muslim migrants.
That has fueled fears Austria’s traditional Western and Christian culture is in danger. As a result, voters are receptive to the anti-migrant platforms of both the People’s Party and the Freedom Party.
Although the Social Democrats have come either first or second in elections since World War II, voters are not receptive right now to the party’s focus on social justice.
Kurz, nicknamed “wunderwuzzi,” is expected to form a coalition with the anti-immigration Freedom Party of Heinz-Christian Strache, 48.
Like the Alternative for Germany, which last month became the third-largest party in the Bundestag, and France’s National Front, the FPOe has stoked concerns about a record influx of migrants into Europe.
Both the People’s Party and the Freedom Party have called for securing Austria’s borders and quickly deporting asylum-seekers whose requests are denied.
“The way Kurz goes about things is what has captured people’s minds”. For his turquoise movement, Kurz drew young candidates from outside politics and vowed to put “Austrians first” again.
As foreign minister, Kurz claims credit for closing the Balkan migrant trail in 2016, earning him praise at home. Pushing far-right themes, he wants to cut benefits for all foreigners, slash Austria’s red tape and keep the EU out of national affairs — in common with Strache.