Far-right surge in Austrian election ‘distressing,’ Jewish group says


(JNS.org) The World Jewish Congress (WJC) voiced concern Sunday following the far-right Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) strong showing in Austria’s election, which could also see Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, 31, become Europe’s youngest leader.

Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s Freedom Party, speaks in 2010. Credit: Thomas Prenner via Wikimedia Commons.

Austrian media projections reported Kurz’s center-right People’s Party securing 30.5 percent of the vote, with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats garnering 27.1 percent and FPÖ 25.9 percent. 

“It’s time to establish a new political style...I accept this responsibility with great humility,” Kurz said Sunday after his party’s victory. Kurz is now expected to form a coalition with the anti-immigrant FPÖ, alarming Jewish groups.

“It is sad and distressing that such a platform should receive more than a quarter of the vote and become the country’s second party,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Austria from 1986-1987. 

The far-right party is “still full of xenophobes and racists and is, mildly put, very ambiguous toward Austria’s Nazi past,” Lauder said.

The WJC leader congratulated Kurz on his party’s victory, but warned against including FPÖ in his governing coalition.

“FPÖ is an extremist party that panders to racists and anti-Semites and whips up feelings against minorities,” Lauder said. “It is led by a man who in his youth expressed clear sympathies for the Nazis. In its present state, the FPÖ is not, and should not be, a party of government.”

Posted on October 16, 2017 .