Austria poised to elect far-Right president as Europe’s populist backlash deepens – Telegraph.co.uk

8 months ago Comments Off on Austria poised to elect far-Right president as Europe’s populist backlash deepens – Telegraph.co.uk

“Hofer is the only one who can bring change in Austria,” Alfred Berger, a 53-year-old street cleaner, says. “I am for Hofer because of the refugee policy.”

But others say a vote for Mr Hofer is dangerous, because it would allow the far-Right back into power.

“I’m afraid of Hofer,” Edit Benkö, a psychologist, said at a protest against the Freedom Party candidate. “I’m afraid he will endanger the demoractic system in Austria.”

Younger protestors were carrying banners denouncing Mr Hofer as a “Nazi”, but Ms Benkö said she wouldn’t go that far. “I don’t think he’s a Nazi, but he was a member of a far-Right fraternity,” she says. 

“I agree with Mr van der Bellen about the refugees,” she says. “I’m not saying Austria should take them all and deal with the problem alone. It’s a problem for all of Europe and we need a European solution. But it doesn’t make sense to lock them out.”

The migrant crisis has had such a major impact on Austria in part because it already has a huge immigrant population following a wave of Balkan migration in the 1990s.

Immigrants now account for around over a fifth of Austria’s population of 8.6m, with a further 90,000 remaining in Austria following last year’s immigration crisis that led to the closing of Austria’s southern borders.  

“One thing worth noting is that in Vienna already more than half of all school beginners are from an immigrant background,” said Dr Werner Fasslabend, president of the Austrian Insitute for European and Security Policy (AIES)

“In some schools it’s as high as 80 per cent. As you can imagine, this is good ground for populists to build on.”

Austria poised to elect far-Right president as Europe’s populist backlash deepens – Telegraph.co.uk