Kurz looks to form far-right govt
Austria’s election winner Sebastian Kurz is considering forming a coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party.
Kurz’s traditionally centrist People’s Party and the more extremist Freedom Party both campaigned for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations for migrants whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam.
His People’s Party, which came first in the October 15 election, and Freedom are both in favour of lowering taxes and shared “similar approaches” on immigration, according to Kurz.
After meetings all the other parties in parliament, Kurz, who will become the world’s youngest elected leader, decided to invite the Freedom Party to enter talks.
Kurz, 31, said Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache (pictured) had shown “a will to bring about change in Austria together”.
Kurz repeatedly criticised the Freedom Party before the election for its links to other far-right parties such as France’s Front National or Italy’s Northern League.
Freedom was formed by former Nazis in the 1950s and took office in the 1990s under Jorg Haider, who praised Adolf Hitler’s employment policies.
“The goal is clear, to form a stable government with a solid majority in parliament,” Kurz said. “If that’s not possible, a minority government is definitely an alternative.”
Kurz, who is currently foreign minister in the outgoing government led by the centrist Social Democrats, said he would try to form a government by Christmas.
The outgoing coalition government collapsed in May after months of deadlock over policy disputes between the Social Democrats and the People’s Party, which had jointly governed in a “grand coalition” for the last decade.
“Austria can only be strong if we are not just members of the European Union, but also actively help to strengthen the European Union,” Kurz said. Austria will hold the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2018.
Strache told the media that between the two parties there were “essential intersections …. but also differences”.
“Nobody should believe that we are going to make it easy for the OVP [People’s Party].”
Freedom general secretary, Harald Vilimsky, said the party was not prepared to give up its membership of far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group in the European Parliament as a condition of any coalition.
The party has become more mainstream in the last decade and claims to have left its Nazi past behind, but anti-Semitic statements are still common.
Last week Kurz promised a “zero-tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism in his administration.
Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party. Picture credit: Wikimedia