Strache to control Austrian security

Strache to control Austrian security
Austria’s nationalist Freedom party will enter government next week, after forming a coalition with chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz. The deal is due to change the country’s immigration policy.
The Freedom party, which has strong ties with the United Russia party of President Vladimir Putin, will take control of the defence, interior and foreign ministries under the deal with Kurz’s centre-right Austrian People’s Party.
Kurz’s party will run other ministries, including finance, justice and agriculture, his spokesman said.
Freedom leader Heinz-Christian Strache (pictured), who has warned of Austria’s “Islamification”, becomes vice-chancellor.
Freedom was part of a coalition government between 2000 and 2005. There was disproval at the time among EU leaders and bilateral diplomatic relations were frozen in protest.
The response this time is likely to be more muted, given the increased support for other right-wing populist parties across the EU.
Kurz, 31, campaigned for the October election promising to halt illegal immigration and offering tax cuts and institutional reforms.
The world’s youngest leader insisted his government programme was pro-European with Strache saying he supported the “European peace project”.
To demonstrate this, the parties were reportedly asked to agree to exempt Austrian membership of the European Union from any referendum.
Freedom took 26 per cent of the vote, coming third after centre-left Social Democrats, which was previously the senior partner in a “grand coalition” with the People’s Party.
This collapsed in May, which resulted in October’s snap election.
Kurz has demanded action to strengthen the EU’s external borders. Austria, with a population of 9 million, received 130,000 asylum applications in 2015 and 2016.
Controlling both the interior and defence ministries means Freedom will handle Austrian security apparatus while in previous coalitions the responsibilities have been split.
Strache has moved to clean up Freedom’s image by suspending members for anti-semitic behaviour, including a municipal councillor who performed a Nazi salute in October.
When he was young, Strache was detained at a torch-lit protest organised by a group imitating the Hitler Youth, which he now says was “stupid”.
In September a group marking the Holocaust published a list of what it said were at least 60 antisemitic and racist incidents involving Freedom members since 2013. “If they really changed their ideology, it is a question they can only answer themselves,” political pundit Alexandra Siegl said. “I would say they changed their tactics and their strategies mainly.”

Heinz-Christian Strache. Picture credit: Wikimedia

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.