Austria’s far-right parties won almost a third of the vote in parliamentary elections, and could be included in a new goverment coalition.
Austria’s two right-populist parties scored high in the vote in today’s parliamentary elections, in a major wake-up call to the governing coalition. While the ruling Social Democratic Party is estimated to have gained 29.7 percent of the vote, its current partner in the administration, the People’s Party, only garnered 25.6 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, the populist far-right Freedom Party – which Vienna Jewish leader Ariel Muzikant recently said contained many “underground Nazis” among its functionaries – won an estimated 18.4 percent of the vote. Another like-minded party, the new Alliance for the Future of Austria, took 9.7 percent. The former party is headed by Heinz-Christian Strache, who opposes economic sanctions against Iran. The new party was founded by right-winger Jorg Haider, who broke away from Strache in 2005. According to reports, Austrian pundits have suggested the Social Democrats may have to build a new government coalition by cutting a deal with the two right-wing parties. It is a risky constellation: Austria’s previous coalition that included Haider’s party led to international sanctions and the departure of the Israeli ambassador to Austria in 2000. Earlier this month, Muzicant told reporters that many functionaries from the Freedom Party could be considered extreme right-wingers, and under no circumstances should they be included in any governing coalition. He added that many voters for the right-wing party were themselves neither xenophobic nor anti-Semitic, but were probably simply disappointed in the political system. Though the Freedom Party has officially distanced itself from the Nazi party, Muzicant said in the Sept. 4 interview that “if you scratch below the surface, those well-known underground Nazis come out, and in droves.”