Yesterday Austrians went to the polls in a general election that promised to send shockwaves through the corridors of the Brussels elite. A campaign in which the three main parties, the ÖVP, SPÖ and FPÖ, were all vying for top spot, was electrifying at times as the leading figures presented their different programs for the country. And now we know; Austrians have voted by a clear majority against more liberalism, against more illegal immigration and for their culture and heritage.
Whilst the FPÖ is undoubtedly the purists’ choice, the ÖVP’s charismatic young leader and Chancellor-in-waiting Sebastian Kurz has shifted his party’s stance on migration as close to that of the FPÖ as was politically palatable for his parliamentary party. This gave those who, despite agreeing with the FPÖ’s core message, were otherwise disinclined to vote for them out of a misguided but totally understandable internalised political correctness, a more socially acceptable option to voice their opposition to the illegal resettlement of refugees and immigrants.
Whilst the final results will remain unknown until the postal votes have been counted this Thursday, the results we currently have are accurate within a margin for error of 2-3%. The ÖVP will clearly be the largest party in the Austrian Parliament, with 31.4% of the vote, and based on the results counted so far it’s going to be a photo-finish for second place between the centre-left SPÖ and the nationalist Freedom Party, who currently edge the centre-left by 27.4% to 26.7% – although, as we saw in the same country’s presidential campaign, postal votes suspiciously go overwhelmingly against nationalists.
These results demonstrate that Austrians have had quite enough of the liberal migrant mendacity festering in their country. Support for the OVP, which has shifted staunchly to the right under Sebastian Kurz – who incidentally is set to become the world’s youngest leader at the tender age of 31 – has increased by over 8%, whilst support for the nationalist Freedom Party is up 5%
As Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz was instrumental in shutting down the “Balkan Route” in the midst of the migrant crisis, and has strongly opposed to European integration agenda of Frau Merkel and Monsieur Macron. The surge in support for his People’s Party since he announced his candidacy for the Chancellorship demonstrates clearly that Austrians are deeply disenchanted with the liberal, post-political consensus propagated by the bourgeois Brussels brigade.
And as with most European elections, the pertinent question now of course is who will Herr Kurz and his party choose to enter government with. Prior to this election, they’d been cooperating with the centre-left Social Democrats in similar fashion to the “grand coalitions” we’ve seen in Germany and the Netherlands, but this alliance looks increasingly unlikely to continue given the increasingly fractious nature of the two parties’ relationship.
This puts the nationalist Freedom Party in the very powerful – and somewhat ironic – postion of “kingmakers”. They effectively hold the balance of power and the political commentariat expects them to form a coalition with Kurz and the ÖVP. However, this is not a forgone conclusion; back in June, the Social Democrats broke from the European tradition of the left not working with nationalists, when over 70% of their members and parliamentarians voted to lift the party’s self-imposed ban on working the with the FPÖ.
This opens up the possibility for the FPO to enter into a coalition with the Social Democrats. Many of you will baulk at the very thought of nationalists working with the left, but the reality is that the two parties have just as much common ground as there is between the FPÖ and the ÖVP; the Freedom Party’s economic platform is undeniably leftist, citing support for the continuation and expansion of the welfare state and advocating greater state intervention in the market. Thus, an SPÖ-FPÖ coalition is not entirely off the table, but one would imagine that this would only materialise should the SPÖ acquiesce to the nationalists’ demands on migrant restrictions and deportations.
But on balance of probability, the most likely scenario is an FPÖ-ÖVP coalition, which would send a powerful message to the Brussels elite. The parties are practically at one on the issues of immigration – even Sebastian Kurz advocates stripping migrants of welfare payments and hastening the deportation process. The FPÖ are perhaps slightly more opposed to Brussels than their prospective partners, but even the ÖVP opposes further European integration and is certainly against the federalisation plans of Messrs Juncker and Tusk.
A collective headache in the corridors of power in Brussels will undoubtedly ensue. The last time the Freedom Party entered government in 2000, the EU took the unprecedented step of placing diplomatic sanctions on Austria in an attempt to force the nationalists out of government. This time, however, that will not work. The European Union elite are all too aware that such measures this time would be akin to putting an open flame to a stockpile of proverbial Eurosceptic gunpowder – their meddling in the elections of sovereign nations is one of the key reasons the British people voted to leave the bloc last year, and a strong catalyst for the growing support in the Eurosceptic movement on a continental scale.
So, to briefly summarise; Chancellor Kurz of the centre-right People’s Party is the almost certain outcome of these elections. But given his shift to the right on the issues of identity and immigration, and in conjunction with his almost certain coalition with the nationalist Freedom Party, we have every reason for optimism. Despite a third-place finish for the Freedom Party, nationalism, albeit in a somewhat moderated format, decisively won this election.