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Austria: Right-Winged Extreme Party Buoyed by Tailwind

Published: May 21, 2014; 19:52 · (FriedlNews)

The Austrian right-winged Freedom Party (FPÖ) is using the disappointment over the grand coalition’s inability to tackle major economic issues to its advantage.

Strache, leader of the right-winged FPÖ, takes advantage of the overall frustration. / Picture: © Wikipedia / Christian Tschaensky

The Freedom Party, founded by the controversial figure of Jörg Haider, and now under the leadership of Heinz-Christian Strache, is one of the European populist parties gaining increasing support by angry and frustrated citizens.

Even though Austria is still in a very good position compared to most European countries – with the lowest unemployment rate and a rather good economic performance – the population’s frustration over the government’s inability to tackle important decisions is undeniable.

“These people are not leading our country out of the crisis. They are leading the crisis through the country,” Strache announced during an election campaign event in Linz, which is best known as the location site of Austrian steel manufacturer voestalpine. “With 1,000 Schillings you used to be a rich citizen,” Strache claimed bringing up the currency change and the declining real wages, a major topic for the opposition party. “Now people walk around with € 100 – it is not even enough to fill a shopping trolley.” With slogans like these the Freedom Party best summarizes the overall frustration of the Austrians. The chaos around nationalized problem bank Hypo Group Alpe Adria, whose bailout costs will drive up the public debts rates, only adds fuel to the fire.

"Austrians do not care how other countries are doing. What matters to them is how they are doing – and many people feel they are doing less well than in the past,” explains Thomas Hofer, political analyst at consultancy company H & P Public Affairs. According to recent polls, the FPÖ could gain as much as 20 percent of the votes in the upcoming European elections.