Populists Set To Be Part Of Austria’s Next Government

REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Polls suggest that Austria’s populist Freedom Party will be part of the country’s next government after Sunday’s general election.

The Freedom Party is currently second in polls with around 25 percent support. The conservative People’s Party leads with 33 percent, and the two are expected to join forces after the election.

The Freedom Party last entered government in 2000. The party’s reputation of being an anti-immigrant party with a racist agenda led several European Union countries to threaten sanctions against Austria over the party’s role in the government.

After a decade away from the spotlight, the Freedom Party returned to significance in 2016 when its candidate Norbert Hofer nearly won the presidential election.

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, 31, of the People’s Party will likely become the next chancellor, despite his young age. Kurz is largely credited for Austria’s new integration laws, including a ban on wearing face-covering veils in public.

“The immigration seen in recent years is changing our country not in a positive but in a negative way,” Kurz said during a recent television interview, according to The Local.

President Alexander Van der Bellen, who is affiliated with the Greens, would have to approve the new government. A constitutional crisis could emerge if he refuses to allow the Freedom Party to take part in the government formation.

The Freedom Party’s success follows similar gains for Germany’s populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in last months election. AfD finished third and made parliament for the first time.

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