Thanks, Austria

In a democratic election, far-right, immigrant-hating, Hitler-wanna-be Norbert Hofer has been defeated. That’s good news — I’ve been feeling like democracy has been inclining toward fascism lately, and it’s nice to see the trend reversed in at least one country.


  1. says

    I just could not see morons happening in Austria. The country just does not have many of that kind of people who can be hoodwinked into racism… unlike the great nation of Trumpistan.

    PS: I was hoping to avoid Christkindlmarkt’2016. Guess I got to go and get some of those fruit shaped marzipans. I am gonna die of diabetes.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Hopefully this is a sign that Le Pen will lose in France. It will take hard work to keep the racist parties out of power.

  3. vole says

    Also an encouraging result in the Gambia, where a dictator who had been in power for over 20 years lost a general election, and is apparently going to accept his defeat. Meanwhile in Iceland the Pirate Party has been invited to form a government. They’re the third largest party, and the two parties with more seats have each already been given the opportunity to form a government, and failed.

  4. davidrutten says

    I’m not Austrian (and hence can only vote in local elections) but I do live here and _damn_ I’m glad it turned out this way. Never been happier to have moved here 3 years ago. Time to pop open one of the better bottles of alcohol in our pantry.

  5. cormacolinde says

    Hitler lost the presidential election in 1932 also. One year later he was in power.

    The fact that Hofer wasn’t very far behind isn’t a cause for rejoicing. This defeat is good, but the fact that such a man could even run and get that good a result is frightening.

  6. says

    That’s a relief. Also remarkable (though not new): the areas (like Vienna) that took most of the refugees were more clearly in favour of Van der Bellen. It’s important to remind ourselves everytime some idiot uses an argument in the vein of “people are just generally/naturally inclined to mistrust strangers” or “multiculturalism doesn’t work, because the cultural differences are too big” that the data shows it’s actually rather the other way round.

    Now if Italy doesn’t do anything stupid, I’m relieved.

    Don’t forget Germany. I fear that Angela Merkel running for a fourth time (unbelievably stupid of Germany not to limit the number of terms) isn’t a good idea. Everybody hates the “big coalition” government, which tars the two biggest parties. And Merkel is a symbol of that. But Austria migh have repercussions for the Bundestagswahl, let’s hope.

  7. says

    Let’S hope that it counts this time…
    Yes, some countries think that if there are irregularities that impede people or skew results you should repeat the election, even if the complaints are made by those who screwed it up.

    Bernardo Soares

    I fear that Angela Merkel running for a fourth time (unbelievably stupid of Germany not to limit the number of terms) isn’t a good idea. Everybody hates the “big coalition” government, which tars the two biggest parties.

    Not a Merkelite, but who’d you have run instead?

  8. Silver Fox says

    Good news to be sure. But the vote was very close — 53.5% to 46.4%.

    And for those who say that Austria just does not have that many neo-Nazi types, I suggest you review your history. Austria and neighboring Bavaria were two of the most anti-Semitic regions of western Europe prior to and throughout the war. Anyone ever hear of Braunau, Austria? That’s Hitler’s hometown. Things have changed a lot in the German speaking lands in the last 70 years (thanks to the USA), but as we see in our own country events can unfold with frightening speed in the most unexpected ways. After Trump we are no longer in a position to preach to others how to run their affairs. We have no idea what American democracy will look like in the next four years.

  9. Holms says

    …(unbelievably stupid of Germany not to limit the number of terms)…

    Meanwhile, I have yet to be convinced that term limits are a good idea at all.

  10. Zeppelin says

    @Bernardo Soares:

    I don’t much care for Merkel, but I’m with Giliell here –everyone else coming to mind who could conceivably run for the CDU would be significantly worse and have less support.
    Besides, the reason there’s no term limit is that we don’t choose the chancellor by popular election, we vote for a political party which internally nominates its candidates. The chancellor can step down or be replaced for a number of reasons during their party’s term, after all.

  11. says

    Besides, the reason there’s no term limit is that we don’t choose the chancellor by popular election, we vote for a political party which internally nominates its candidates. The chancellor can step down or be replaced for a number of reasons during their party’s term, after all.

    Indeed, before the 1998 election of Schröder and Fischer (fuck them both), we never changed governments by an election. Sure, we changed governments, but usually by somebody stepping down, the liberal dems changing allegiance, etc….

  12. says

    @7, 10: you’re both right, of course. But to me, that’s part of the problem. No alternative might make the AfD the only alternative for those who want change. Same with the SPD: who could conceivably stand against Merkel? And I know why we don’t have term limits, but this is now the second time that it’s proven problematic. And I do think that Merkel, in her own pragmatic way, has done a similar thing to Kohl, namely not letting anyone come up through the party hierarchy that can stand against her in the party. Only that this time, there’s no strong SPD that can stand against her.

    I don’t think the AfD has a chance, but Seehofer, if he’s crazy enough, can do a lot of damage.

  13. nomenexrecto says

    @ Bernardo Soares #4:

    In Germany too, the areas that accepted the most refugees are those where the AfD gets the least votes. It’s East Germany, the former GDR, where Immigrants of any kind are significantly less common where they get the biggest support, and where even the mainstream supports more of their claim.
    The shit are getting too many even in the west, but in the east, they are well embedded in the mainstream…

  14. says

    @13: There are a lot of factors contributing to that, but it’s not just the East -West divide. After all, Baden-Württemberg used to give 12% to the Republikaner in the 1990s, which was the AfD of the day. You’ll also find Neonazi strongholds throughout the West. I think it’s more of a rural v. urban thing, only that the East is more rural than many regions in the West. I haven’t looked at AfD voting patterns, might be worth a look whether they reflect that.

  15. says

    Point is, we’ve known for years that we have about 20-25% of people with a “rechtsextreme Weltanschauung” (extreme rightwing views”. And it flared up occasionally. The NPD was big in the 70s. The Republikaner in the 90s. Now it’s the AfD. There aren’t necessarily more of them, they are just more visible. In Meck Pom they took the votes away from the NPD and in other places people who didn’t dare to vote for the NPD feel comfortable in voting for the AfD.
    Yes, I think we’re going to get the AfD in the Bundestag. The question is whether someone else leaves or whether we’re going to get a Bundestag with 6 parties which probably means GroKo forever.
    Real problem: every time those views surged, conservatives jumped to the right.

    I think it’s more of a rural v. urban thing, only that the East is more rural than many regions in the West.

    Njein. The phenomenon that those populations with least contact are the most xenophobic isn’t just a German phenomenon. And in Western Germany people had 50 years longer to get used to living with all kinds of different people* and we already had to tackle big waves of xenophobia**.

    *Unfun fact: many of the immigrants of the 60s are now about the most adamant opponents of further immigration.
    **I remember the slurs for Italians and Turks from my childhood.

    I don’t think the AfD has a chance, but Seehofer, if he’s crazy enough, can do a lot of damage.

    The German conservative christian embodiment of “do as I say, not as I do”.

  16. dvizard says

    The fascist got 47% of the popular vote. I think that’s just about the same Trump got. I’m not sure we are seeing much of a reversion of the general trend.

  17. says

    The fascist got 47% of the popular vote. I think that’s just about the same Trump got. I’m not sure we are seeing much of a reversion of the general trend.

    But it’s nice that in some countries the person who won more votes actually wins.

  18. ospalh says

    “Occident saved. End of the world postponed for now).”
    Tag line of the German left wing daily tageszeitung (taz).
    Btw, the German AfD’s founder can serve as an example on what to do when your political party becomes unbearable.
    Bernd Lucke founded it as a sort-of libertarian party. Main slant was that he was against a bail-out for Greece with German money.
    Then the nationalist took over the party, and he basically told them to do their shit without him, founded another party, and was never heard from again.

  19. says

    the 25% number: yes, but the last FES-“Mitte”-Studie also found 50% agreeing that Islam is a danger for Germany, and growing agreement to anti-immigrant stereotypes (while, contradictorily, more than half of the respondents still agreed that we need to take in the refugees).

    That first-generation immigrant thing is bad. I used to live in a multicultural part of town in Switzerland, many old Italians, and consistently found SVP and worse (nearly openly Neonazi) election flyers in my mailbox, only very few from the other mainstream parties. A friend with Italian family was not surprised.

  20. says

    @18: But Lucke took a long time to ignore the nationalists. He knew he had the extreme right in his party from the start and did nothing to curb them, because he probably thought he would be able to contain them and use their support to grow. He only left when it became clear they would take over and oust him. Same with Henkel. They always reminded me of the arrogance of pre-WWII conservatives and noblemen like Papen who thought he’d be able to use Hitler for his own purposes. Zauberlehrlinge.

    (And, btw, Lucke did and still does agree with a lot of the religious fundamentalist shit of people like Storch. He’s evangelical himself.)

  21. dvizard says

    > But it’s nice that in some countries the person who won more votes actually wins.

    Sure. But as a long-time pessimist, I find limited relief in the fact that Hofer wasn’t actually elected, and more reason to worry in the fact that nearly half of the population actually voted for him.

  22. says

    Don’t despair, Austrian far-Right – CNN’s coming to help.

    Somebody should give them a dictionary. They have problems spelling “fascism”.
    The “identity movement” as he calls it is a far right network that especially in Germany and Austria is linked to the extreme right.

  23. ospalh says

    Yes, Lucke waited until he was voted out of power in the party. (And Henkel was a Lucke camp follower.)
    Still. I hear literally nobody in, say, the American Republican Party talking about founding a new, not-quite-as-rightwing, party.
    Of course, first-past-the-post voting severely penalizes that sort of thing.
    Also, at least the two main parties in the US don’t really look the way parties here in Germany do. I’ve never seen an {Republican,Democratic} party conference where there was any real discussion on policy points, or a contested but orderly vote on anything, be it the party president, or a point in the party platform. The closest thing to a contested vote in US party politics i remember was when the Dem leaders seemed discombobulated in 2012 when the party vote wasn’t clear on putting “god” into the platform.

  24. says

    I remember a few years ago, when the odious Jörg Heider, also of the Austrian Freedom Party, joined a governing coalition, causing several other European countries to impose sanctions and stern warnings to Austria. Ah, such innocent times, when a far-right intrusion in a European government was still considered unacceptable…

  25. says

    Here’s a sliver of hope: this is already the third attempt of Austria to elect its president. The first time, van der Bellen won by teensy tiny margin of 30.000 votes. He only got the majority when the mail votes were counted. There were irregularities there*, therefore the election got annulled. The second attempt didn’t even take place because the glue on the mail vote envelopes was faulty.
    Now the third time. Many things happened in between. The Brexit nobody thought could happen happened. The Trump presidency nobody thought could happen happened. And the Austrians had to vote again. The right wing was hoping for a “Trump effect”, a boost of nationalism in the wake of the US election. And yes, still more than 40% of people voted for Hofer.
    But a lot more who didn’t even vote the last time decided that they could not risk that. That the Trump effect must be “no, not here, not with us”. Van der Bellen already has a comfortable lead and when the mail votes are counted that is bound to increase.
    *Many of them caused by the losing Hofer’s party. You gotta wonder if there’s was a system to this.

  26. malefue says

    I’m sorry, but I don’t share your optimism regarding Austria’s politics, and I live here after all.
    There’s little sign of any change, the far- right FPÖ has been holding strong at about 30% for years now, only prevented from being part of a government coalition by the pretend-socialists SPÖ and catholic conservatives ÖVP.
    In fact, Austria has some of the harshest anti-immigration laws in Europe, despite not having had the far-right idiots in government for two terms. Of course when they were everything they’ve done then was an unmitigated disaster, half the FPÖ’s ministers of that government were brough before court for various corruption charges. Meanwhile they allowed the conservative part of that coalition to pursue their neo-liberal agenda undeterred, resulting in severe cuts to the socials safety nets, waves of privatizations of state-owned corporation etc. with all the consequences one would expect from those measures. So the whole “we’re the party of the ordinary people” doesn’t hold true for these wannabe-fascists neither.
    Hofer belongs to the inner circle of the “new FPÖ” under HC Strache, he is a member of a Burschenschaft (a kind of fraternity, but not in the US style) called Marko-Germania, which doesn’t even think Austria is a real thing, rather they are Deutsch-Nationale, who think that all “ethnic germans” (whatever that is) should be part of a Greater Germany, in effect they’re old-school Nazis who couldn’t come to terms with the state of Europe after WW2.
    That’s the pool in which the far-right in Austria fish for their personnel. They are much more traditional Nazis than most of the other European neo-right and much less circumspect in their comments and actions. They shaped the whole political discourse here, so much so that even Greens and Socialists have a hard time countering the “Immigration is dangerous”-narrative.

  27. Jake Harban says

    I’ve been feeling like democracy has been inclining toward fascism lately

    Except that much of the trend towards fascism has come from countries that didn’t have functional democracies in the first place.

  28. numerobis says

    @ospalh: “I hear literally nobody in, say, the American Republican Party talking about founding a new, not-quite-as-rightwing, party.”

    That party would be indistinguishable from the Democratic Party. There’s a void on the left in the US.

  29. secondtofirstworld says

    There was an advertisement a few years (maybe decades?) back in German television about Ouzo. The punchline was, that he doesn’t take just any type, he clearly responds to the seller, after he said “Für deine Freunde!” His reply is: “Nein, für meine guten Freunde!”

    How is that of any relevance? Some people take it dead seriously to select their friends based on preconceived notions, others are to treat the unknown as something lesser. So, I want to address first, that, and it should be obvious, but seeing the split of Castro’s memory here it clearly isn’t, totalitarian and authoritarian systems have a knack for controlling the lives of citizens. In other words, some European countries like to have a rosarote Hollywood version of their own history, and unfortunately Austria is no exception. Since it remained a non-aligned country until 1995, they did not do much to discuss, what their role in the war was. More specifically, the former party leader and many of his compatriots in the FPÖ were members of the Burschenschaft, a very pro-Nazi organization.

    Like Bertolt Brecht vote in his poem in reflection to the bloody repression of the East Berlin uprising, if the party doesn’t like the society it rules, it should elect a new one. A mindset can only change with time, and quite frankly until Waldheim not many have challenged just how much Ostmark has contributed to the Third Reich, or how it took them until 1962 to prohibit any private excavation for Nazi loot, which search parties included members of the troops hiding it there. The current Austrian society is multifaceted, for every humanitarian you find a bigot who votes FPÖ because they fear their lifestyle being taken away by cheaper Eastern European offers. The irony here is, that many Eastern European populists don’t get how they’re being hated more, than refugees, as, unlike a refugee, they want better paying jobs.

    The latter groups brings me back to Germany, and the differences between Western fascism, and Eastern just fascism, the original one. I’ve read here, how Austria’s immigration laws are harsh, it lies in the eye of the beholder. Compare that to the GDR, which has maximized the time of foreign workers from fellow socialist countries to 3 years, and if a woman got pregnant, she had a state mandated abortion. Compare it to the practice of post socialist countries, who have preempted their international obligations. Heck, Georg Spöttle, a former cop turned security advisor can appear in state media, despite claiming to have been abducted by UFOs in the ’90s. He is but one guy out of many who peddle the idea, that they have more freedom of the press, as the Germans do, by which they mean their subservient media can show their unsubstantiated ideas as facts. Former East Germans don’t know much about how they should relate to German speaking non-Germans, as all what they know is how to deport them, just ask the Vietnamese. As for West Germans, it’s not a surprise either, some need the victim narrative, and it’s an open secret how denazification was stopped to fill up the anticommunist ranks with people, who already knew them, which did not backfire in the Baader-Meinhof phenomena.

    This is the one thing I have to agree on with Jake, not having a functional democracy, caused by the lack in democratic traditions is a huge factor. It was said here before, how good it is, if someone actually wins the popular vote. It’s not true for countries I just mentioned. I’m aware, many of the people aren’t that familiar with Orban’s name, but came January 20th, many of us will, as he will be one of the first ones to be officially welcomed by Trump, and then everyone can read ex post facto, what he thinks about the EU, democracy in general, and how he is the go between for Trump and Putin, when it comes to EU politics. While I’m totally aware, that Renzi’s resignation is not a good sign, the Italian people has chosen wisely. Had Renzi had won the referendum, Berlusconi could have had transformed the media landscape in such a way as Eastern European populists have already done, this is not the time to downsize the number of lawmakers.

    However there’s one thing I disagree on with Jake: Trump being elected happened in a country of democratic traditions for 240 years, yet he’s just as a populist as the leader of a post socialist country. That’s because he tapped into the phenomenon of people living beside each other, not with each other. I’ve read to comments of my kin, and have read the comments of Trump supporters, and they match up, drawing a picture of a majority ethnicity, that doesn’t want to live with anyone they don’t know, although that’s technically impossible within the Schengen Zone. Just to show, how dangerous populism is, the first day of this month was the International Day of HIV/AIDS, but it was also the national holiday of Romania. So, like any good secretary of the state, there has been numerous get-togethers, remembrance, the importance in prevention… I’m just kidding. After showing prowess of being the diplomatic leader of a small country, who demands apologies from virtually every government (again, it’s not a banana republic), he had straight up denied for his staff to attend the festivities of a neighboring country, because, as we know, diplomacy is all about openly pissing off your fellow colleagues. Priorities are everything, and he’s but one of the precursors on how the Trump administration will act.

    So yes, Austria had won, but with the exception of Germany and Liechtenstein, she’s surrounded by populist countries from every direction, which has already happened in the 1930s, and Dreyfuss lived a long life, just like Jean Jaurès and the Yugoslavian king. By which I mean they were murdered well before Europe went up in flames.

    For decades, the West could have shown the social consequences of following a populist, and this is the best time to show the financial cost of it too. There isn’t a single populist leader anywhere anytime who can lead their country into prosperity, as their greed and vanity always gets in the way, and the EU must be saved from them. Personally, one dictatorship was enough for me, and hopefully others will see this way before rationed food becomes the rational thought.

  30. F.O. says

    @Bernardo Soares #6

    Now if Italy doesn’t do anything stupid, I’m relieved.

    The “No” won and Renzi will resign.
    I voted No because the “Si” (“yes”) would have cut the power of the smaller (and already weakish) parties, forcing Italy to a complete duopoly like the US.
    Yes, the racist parties were supporting the “No”, but (unlike the UK or the US votes) this vote was not about xenophobia, not about EU, it was about Renzi and his government, and he was rejected by a very broad spectrum of political forces.

  31. numerobis says

    FO: what’s your take on M5S?

    They sound pretty reasonable to me, but it’s hard to tell from way over here, and the media of course hate anything but the centre-right.

  32. madscientist says

    I only see bad news: votes for the extremists have been growing over the years and this time they almost won (though at least in this case the position is purely one for show). Since politics will not change and people will be served more of the same, the nutso parties have a good chance of winning governing seats in the future.

  33. birgerjohansson says

    Gilliell, I will henceforth refer to any American politician with (R) after his/her name as “Rechtsextreme Weltanschauung” !!

  34. F.O. says

    @numerobis: I really like the idea that Grillo has been pushing forward of “politics from below”.
    He managed to involve a lot of common people in politics and I do think it’s very much needed all over the West.
    This said, he’s an authoritarian, racist control freak, and most of the M5S are gullible, inexperienced fools who happily peddle the worst conspiracy theories.