Electoral victory of anti-migrant party in Austria sends shock wave through Europe

Electoral victory of anti-migrant party in Austria sends shock wave through Europe
Norbert Hofer, leader of Austria's Freedom Party. (Image: Screen grab of Euro News video, YouTube)

[Ed. – Some skepticism is in order across the board, but this is big.  One of the points of skepticism is the reflexive casting of these parties as “far right.”  The literal past association of some of them with Nazism doesn’t actually correspond with “rightism,” but even beyond that, the new generation of leadership in these parties has for the most part explicitly repudiated both Nazism and anti-Semitism.  It isn’t clear yet how much that means.  But it is important not to make prejudicial assumptions about what large numbers of voters think they’re voting for.  Voters who are justifiably concerned about the destructive transformation of their daily lives by unchecked migration have nowhere else to turn.  It’s outdated thinking to assume that they are consciously turning to Nazism.  Such thinking is merely convenient for the ruling leftists.  Meanwhile, it’s worth pointing out that Norbert Hofer reportedly campaigned while carrying his Glock sidearm everywhere.]

Right-wing populist parties across Europe celebrated on Monday after a surprise electoral win by their Austrian ally underscored the depth of popular discontent with Europe’s political establishment and its handling of the migrant crisis.

From France and Germany to the U.K., euroskeptic and anti-immigrant politicians lauded Austria’s 60-year-old Freedom Party for achieving its best-ever result in a national election. Norbert Hofer, the party’s candidate for the largely ceremonial post of president in the small Alpine country, drew 35.1% of the first-round vote, more than triple what either of Austria’s two traditional mainstream parties achieved.

“In a huge number of countries in Europe, patriotic movements are surging vigorously,” French populist leader Marine Le Pen said on French television Monday about the Austrian vote. “This is becoming the way that history is pointing.”

Mr. Hofer made opposition to immigration and free trade the centerpiece of his campaign. He now faces left-of-center independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, who favors openness to accepting refugees, in a runoff election scheduled for May 22. Mr. Van der Bellen drew 21.3% of the vote in Sunday’s first round.

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