The Sound of Music:
The Outcome of the Austrian Elections
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One of the few things which can be stated with any certainty about the consequences of the recent Austrian elections on October 15 is that they are unpredictable, both for Austria and for European politics. The hard Left is out of parliament, the Social Democrats are in disarray, the anti-immigration course of the conservatives under a new, young leader has reaped dividends, and the “far Right” FPÖ has entered a coalition government. The results have certainly given the new government a mandate to slam the breaks on immigration and impose strict immigration controls.
On December 18, 2017, the coalition government formed by two of the leading parties, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the “Right-wing populist” Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), was sworn in by the liberal and long-time Green Party campaigner, Alexander Van de Bellen, in his capacity as President of the Republic. Does all this matter very much? After all, the post-war Austrian republic is a very small country of just under nine million inhabitants, associated in the post-war popular imagination not with political conflict but with mountain skiing, a country where jolly, red-cheeked fellows wear shorts, yodel in the hills, and wear what looks like a shaving brush stuck in their hats. Genial cows wear large bells round their necks and Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews sing “Edelweiss.”
However, the recent elections in Austria should be of interest not just to Austrians. In the first place, Austria is the only country in Europe — indeed in the world — where an ethnically-aware white party has consistently held out against everything its opponents can throw at it and is now entering government for the second time. Politics which in France, the German Republic, or Britain are still considered unacceptable have become consensual government politics in Austria.
What is more, the “anti-fascist” presence in Austria has demonstrably shrunk compared to what it was ten years ago. The predictable demonstrations against the inauguration of the new government could only bring together at the most ten thousand people (the police spoke of five to six thousand). Compare this to the number of demonstrators in the year 2000, when then FPÖ leader Jörg Haider joined a coalition government. The numbers of protesters then was put at around one hundred fifty thousand.
The low turnout of “anti-fascist” demonstrators, paralleled by the slump in the Green vote (the Green Party did not reach the four percent minimum of the vote to enter the Austrian parliament at all), reflects the undeniable decline in the popularity of internationalist multiracial programs in Austria since the Berlin government unilaterally declared the right of a million “refugees” to enter Europe in 2015. As the centrist ÖVP reformed under its new and very youthful leader, Sebastian Kurz, and committed itself to a disciplined anti-immigration policy, its showings in the polls rose sharply and the election results were a triumph for the new leadership.
Kurz has so far combined in his policy declarations a strong commitment to the EU with vaguely-formulated wishes for more direct democracy, very pro-business utterances, and most surprisingly of all, forthright statements in favor of border security and the rejection of unlimited immigration. Kurz does have a certain record to give credence to his comments. In the previous government, he was instrumental in enacting measures to repatriate “refugees” who had felt sure enough to take holidays back to the homelands from which they claimed to have fled. Kurz has promised to do what he can to help close the Mediterranean route to illegal immigrants, and is considered to have played a major role in closing the Balkan route for migrants into Europe. Indeed, the anti-immigration pronouncements of the ÖVP have been so strong that the FPÖ felt that the new conservative leader had stolen their thunder and moved towards more Left-populist policies during the election campaign, so that on social issues it would be fair to say that the FPÖ partners in government are more social than the ÖVP, and closer to the outgoing Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) than to their government partners.
What remains to be seen is whether the new government will take the steps which the great majority of Austrian voters clearly want to see taken: a halt to mass immigration from outside Europe and the deportation of illegal immigrants and the securing of Austria’s borders, following the examples of Hungary and Poland. While internationalists and the far Left have suffered a severe popular defeat, established media and culture remain firmly under internationalist control in Austria. The internationalist Left will undoubtedly be using these two tools of power to do all it can to ridicule, undermine, and above all divide the new government. The government’s position will not be helped by the fact that the President, Green Party member Alexander Van der Belen, who has significant symbolic authority and prestige, is deeply opposed to the anti-immigration and “populist” swing which the country has taken. Van der Belen had narrowly defeated the FPÖ’s Norbert Hofer in the chancellorship elections of 2016. Hofer himself has been appointed Minister of Innovation and Transport in the new government.
There is always the danger in a coalition that the larger partner will squeeze the life out of the smaller partner, or that differences both personal and political will emerge. The leader of the FPÖ, Heinz-Christian Strache, would not be human if he did not feel some pangs of envy in the face of the meteoric rise of the ÖVP wonder boy and new Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz. Strache’s appointment to a minor governmental post, which at first may seem demeaning and was certainly surprising, may well have been at his own behest, considering that he could have insisted on a higher position (not forgetting that he is now in any case Vice Chancellor). His appointment was immediate, without negotiation or dispute (which the media would have seized on had such been the case), implying that he had already agreed not to take a prominent government post. And by accepting the position of the strangely-named Ministry for Civil Servants and Sport (sic), he has allowed Kurz a free hand to assume full responsibility for his decisions and given himself the chance to spend time on his own party. However, the FPÖ has six ministerial posts in the new government, including the Ministry for Internal Affairs, which has been given to Herbert Kickl, who used to be Jörg Haider’s speechwriter and is known for his biting and hard-hitting campaign slogans (“Wiener Blut — zu viel fremdes tut niemand gut” – “Vienna blood. Too much foreign is no good for anyone”).
However, cynics may be wondering if the FPÖ will fall into the trap similar to that which the Liberal Democrats fell into in their partnership with the Conservatives in Britain. The Conservatives outmaneuvered their partners, and the smaller party was seen as having “betrayed the cause” by its party base, and consequently slumped in popularity, and at the next election was out of government.
The 180-page program of the new government is without radical content, to this reviewer’s knowledge, other than a commitment to secure borders, which in the face of the immigration tidal waves threatening Europe might be considered radical. Vienna’s leading daily, Die Wiener Zeitung, called it “modest.” Major tax reforms have been deferred to 2020. A possible point of conflict will be Austria’s special status regarding smoking. The EU laid down a “guideline” in 2014, inviting — in the inimitable bureaucratic manner dear to the EU — member states to follow said guideline to forbid smoking in pubs, cafés, and other public places. Described as only guidelines, EU member states which know what is best for them immediately enact legislation in accordance with such EU “guidelines.” Austria is the only EU member state not to have legislated this directive, and the FPÖ has made a point of insisting on the continuation of the right to smoke in public places. This declaration is in the new government’s program, which means it is scrapping the previous government’s commitment to enforce the EU’s anti-smoking guidelines. Brussels may well demand its enforcement as a test of the strength of its authority, to embarrass the Austrian coalition government, and to drive a wedge between the FPÖ and the ÖVP. Since the continuation of smoking freedoms seems to be the only obvious concession that the ÖVP has made to the FPÖ, it will be almost impossible for the ÖVP to avoid conflict with either the FPÖ or Brussels if the latter chooses to make an issue of Austria’s defiance.
The Freedom Party undertaking, which obliges a government to hold a referendum on any issue for which at least four percent of the population has demanded one, has been watered down to fourteen percent with two-thirds parliament approval, and even this proposal will not be introduced to parliament before 2022. Especially disappointing to this writer is that there is no mention of a referendum on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the free trade agreement with Canada, an internationalist agreement which enormously undermines the economic self-determination of European nations and environmental standards and the rejection of which has long been a keynote of FPÖ demands for “national self-determination.”
The temptation to expect too much from the new government is obviously strong, but it would also be wrong to deny that the formation of this government constitutes, if not a defeat, at the very least a setback, for those working hard, and hitherto largely successfully, for the emasculation of the European nation-states and the lifting of all European borders so that millions of non-Europeans can eliminate the white race by sheer weight of numbers and the “battle of the pram.” Clearly, this election in a small European nation has potential ramifications way beyond the café houses of Vienna and the meadows of the Tyrol.
There are two issues over which friction in the new government may occur: one is the economy and the other is the EU. On the economy, Strache’s FPÖ occupies a position comparable to that of Le Pen’s National Front in France and has undoubtedly garnered votes from the SPÖ, that is to say, traditionally working class socialist voters. The ÖVP has appealed to the small entrepreneur and the desire for freedom from bureaucracy. No anti-immigration policy can achieve a popular mandate in the West without having something to offer both the working class, who are the “losers” in the globalization scheme, and a middle class frustrated by bureaucracy and big government. This has come about in Austria, where two parties appealing to very different sections of the populace have joined forces in a coalition government, but it is hard to see how the new government can rule without disappointing one of the two groups of electors.
The second issue likely to be contentious is the EU, to which Kurz is not only committed but about which he is strongly enthusiastic. Both in his internal party vigor as well as in his sudden rise to power and his enthusiastic commitment to Europe, he resembles Macron or Tony Blair in his early years more than any traditionally cautious conservative politician. Austria has traditionally combined a paradoxical degree of Euro-friendliness with skepticism about foreigners. Part of the reason is simple: money. Like the Visegrád nations, with whose leaders the new Austrian Chancellor is said to enjoy especially cordial relations, Austria is dependent on EU largesse to maintain its high standard of living. This provides European federalists with a way to compel (blackmail?) recalcitrant leaders to toe a pro-immigration line. The electoral success of Sebastian Kurz will make it harder for them to do so, however, since his typically Austrian enthusiasm for Europe is coupled with an immense distrust of immigration.
It is still unclear how Kurz can and will reconcile his enthusiasm for European cooperation with a freeze on immigration. The FPÖ is much more skeptical of the European project than the ÖVP, and any commitment to more integration in respect of, say, taxation, insurance law, or a European army is likely to be greeted with intense skepticism by the ÖVP’s partners in government. As for immigration, in the event of Kurz reneging on his promises to secure Austria’s borders, the FPÖ would almost certainly leave the coalition, in which event new elections would have to be called.
The Austrian election result is important not only for what it indicates about political trends taking place throughout Europe, notably the rejection by both traditional socialist and traditional conservative voters of mass immigration from outside Europe, but also what it says about the politicians’ need to respond to the demands of the people, which is now acknowledged by even establishment politicians. On July 1, 2018, Austria takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Council of Europe, like it or not, plays a key role in determining the guidelines of the EU member states’ government policies on issues such as immigration and foreign policy and coordinating political initiatives between member states. This will be the first time that the EU presidency will be held by a country whose government consists of a coalition which includes a nationalist political party. At the time of writing, nobody can be sure what tone Austria is going to set during its presidency period. As things are, it seems likely to be caught between the wishes of the Austrian electors and at least the FPÖ (not to mention the ÖVP electoral campaign promises) on the one hand, with the immigration-friendly policies which still have strong sway among the internationalists in Brussels on the other. Recent utterances from Paris and Berlin suggest that the internationalists there are going to bide their time and tone down their more fanatical internationalist rhetoric until after the Austrian election and British referendum “setbacks” blow over, assuming that they are only setbacks in the One World project and that they will indeed be allowed to blow over. It is the duty of those whose do not share the globalist dream to ensure that these events are not allowed to do so.
So, the only thing which is certain about how the Austrian election result pans out is that nothing about it is certain; that, and the fact that there is more to play for here than just the sound of music.
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