mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
The European Immigration Crisis
Austrian Far-Right Party Places First in Presidential Poll

The two parties that have ruled Austria since the end of the Second World War came in fourth and fifth in Sunday’s election for the country’s largely ceremonial Presidency. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Preliminary results published by the Austrian interior ministry, which didn’t include mail-in ballots, showed that Norbert Hofer, from the anti-immigrant Freedom Party, which is known by its German initials FPÖ, with 36.4% of the vote.

Alexander Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economist and former spokesman for the Greens who took a pro-refugee stance during the campaign, secured nearly 20.4% of the vote, according to the ministry. Mr. Van der Bellen, himself a child of refugee parents, is opposed to all restrictions on asylum seekers.

Candidates from the Social Democrats and Austrian People’s Party, which together form the current coalition government, each received around 11% of the vote.

Irmgard Griss, a retired president of the Austrian Supreme Court who ran as an independent in a bid to become the country’s first female president, received 18.5% of the vote, according to preliminary results.

Mr. Hofer and Mr. Van der Bellen will likely face each other in a runoff vote on May 22. Final results for the first round will be released on Monday.

No prizes for guessing what caused the meltdown: the immigration crisis that has shaken Austrian politics to the core. There are other reasons for European voters to be skeptical of traditional parties, to be sure, but in a non-Club-Med country like Austria, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest.

The real test of strength for the fringe Right won’t come until the Parliamentary elections in 2018. But this is not the first sign of trouble—the Freedom Party also nearly toppled 70 years of Social Democrat rule in Vienna during the last mayoral elections.

To the north, Angela Merkel maintains her grip on power, with the far-right still looking relatively small (if notably larger than a year ago) and no rivals in sight. But for Germany’s southern neighbors, things are not looking so firm; there must be panic in the halls of power today. We shall see how that shakes out in policy terms—in the interim, we would recommend reading this excellent profile of the Freedom Party by Charles Hawley.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Beauceron

    “To the north, Angela Merkel maintains her grip on power”

    And, luckily for her, she’s just imported 800,000 voters– plus their voting age families to boot.

  • Nevis07

    It’s really quite simple, actually. Only the extreme positions seem to remain in Western politics today. Moderate debate has been snuffed out by party elites and the mainstream media. In the US for example, we have Clinton, Obama and Warren towing the line that there are essentially zero concerns with an open border policy and that anyone who says otherwise is effectively a racist or bigot. What the media seems to forget is that an open border policy IS and extreme position to take, it just happens to be of a liberal variety; nevermind other rational concerns such as terrorism and criminal elements taking advantage of the system that the media refuses to provide much needed discussion on.

    By taking these extreme left positions and branding anyone not in agreement as a xenophobe, they’ve made it so that there is no moderate alternative and therefore people will flock to more extreme politics at the other end of the spectrum. It’s not difficult for example to see this year’s sexual assault in Germany having quite a psychological effect on Austrian domestic politics. The mainstream European parties cannot decide to take a more rational approach to the migrant crisis and so people will naturally feel they have no other choice.

    This is liberalism getting in it’s own way. Instead of it promoting rational discussion, the progressive movement paint themselves into a corner and push extremist policies that they don’t realize are extreme.

    • Beauceron

      “push extremist policies that they don’t realize are extreme”

      I think they realize they’re extreme. But they have a purpose, and the ends justify the means.

      In the case of the US, I think the Left has used mass immigration as a tool to further their goal of a “permanent majority.” Soon, all these nasty squabbles between the left and right will die down because there will simply be no conservative Republican party that can be viable on a national level. We are, in fact, just approaching that particular station on our own self-made road to perdition. When the Democrats are in charge of both houses and the presidency, all will be well…

  • Jim__L

    OK everyone, brush off your Toynbee and repeat after me:

    “Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”

    “Now civilizations, I believe, come to birth and proceed to grow by successfully responding to successive challenges. They break down and go to pieces if and when a challenge confronts them which they fail to meet.”

    The governments of the West are not rising to the challenge of supporting the populations which they spring from, preferring instead to support populations from elsewhere.

    [f1b, where did you find that jewel of a quote about our elites wanting to “dismiss the electorate and impanel a new one”? It’s pure gold.]

    • Tom

      He was cribbing from Bertolt Brecht.

      After the uprising of the 17th of June
      The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
      Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
      Stating that the people
      Had forfeited the confidence of the government
      And could win it back only
      By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
      In that case for the government
      To dissolve the people
      And elect another?

      –“The Solution”

      • Fat_Man

        That is certainly the plan the Democrats are executing in the United States.

  • Pete

    About time!

  • rheddles

    Fringe? How can a group that wins an election be not part of the mainstream; unconventional, or peripheral?

    • Boritz

      It’s easy to imagine TAI reporting of future elections that the extremists won 92% of the vote and the moderates around 5%.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service