A controversial right-wing politician won a leadership position in Austria’s national parliament.
In the Oct. 28 elections, Martin Graf of the Freedom Party was named one of two deputy parliament presidents with support from 70 percent of the legislators. He also belongs to the far-right Olympia student organization that reportedly has contact with neo-Nazis.
Graf, 48, recently published a statement condemning racism and anti-Semitism, but he maintains his ties with Olympia, which reportedly has hosted right-wing extremist speakers. His party has suggested that laws banning neo-Nazis be lifted.
Olympia allegedly has contact with members of Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party, and with British writer David Irving, widely considered a Holocaust denier.
Austria’s Jewish community decried the parliamentary decision after having campaigned against it in the days preceding the vote. According to the German Press Agency, the community issued a statement calling the vote “a symbolic decision which can lead to a further strengthening of the right-wing extremist camp and which shows little sensibility for Austrian history and the tragic results of German nationalism.”
After finishing third in recent national elections, the Freedom Party exercised its right to nominate a legislator from its ranks to the vice chair position. Graf was supported largely by the mainstream conservative People’s Party and Austria’s two far-right parties — his own and the Alliance for the Future of Austria. The vote was 109 to 27.
Barbara Prammer of the mainstream liberal Social Democratic Party and Michael Spindelegger of the mainstream conservative People’s Party were elected president and second vice president.