Austria, Slipping Down the Slippery Rightward Slope

NY Times starts this way:

VIENNA — As befits the city of Sigmund Freud, Vienna has two faces — one sweet, one sinister.

Behind the schnitzel and strudel, Mozart and the opera, lurks the legacy of the Nazis who forced Jews to clean sidewalks with toothbrushes. In 1988, to much controversy, Vienna placed Alfred Hrdlicka’s “Memorial Against War and Fascism,” featuring a sculpture of a Jewish mancleaning the street, right behind the State Opera, lest Austria again forget.

Now, to the astonishment of many and the alarm of some, the burning question in Vienna’s elegant cafes is, Which face will prevail in the city’s bellwether elections on Oct. 11?

Roughly one in four of Austria’s 8.7 million residents lives in Vienna. For almost the last century — aside from the Nazi years, 1938-45 — the left has ruled “Red Vienna,” long prized for its pioneering public housing and welfare, and its cultural ferment.

But against the backdrop of Europe’s refugee drama, the far-right Freedom Party is threatening the Social Democrats’ hold in what may portend a more general rise in populist, anti-immigrant sentiment across the Continent.

The Telegraph from the UK shouts louder

Austria’s Right-wing populist party makes huge gains fuelled by migrant crisis fears

Austrian Freedom Party doubles its share of the vote in state of Upper Austria as Vienna expects nearly three times the number of asylum applications received last year

A Right-wing populist party in Austria has made huge gains in regional elections over growing concerns about Europe’s migrant crisis.

The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) won 30.4 per cent of the vote in the state of Upper Austria, the country’s industrial heartland, a striking improvement on its performance in the state’s last election in 2009 when it took half as many votes with 15.3 per cent.

This isn’t to say all Austrians are implicated in this surge of anti-immigrant feeling.  Many, many greeted refugees at train stations and in the streets.  It does mean, as in the United States, that divisions are no longer ignored; fear is rising.  And if that’s the tide that will lift all boats, we’d better be thinking about better drainage and stronger barriers.

Right Wing Viennese Protest Turkey’s Erdogan

Two protest marches were held on Thursday to coincide with the visit to Vienna of Turkey’s controversial prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A group of protesters clashed with Erdogan supporters on the Reichsbrücke, according to the Heute paper.

According to eyewitness reports a group of counter-demonstrators threw stones and glass bottles at the anti-Erdogan marchers. Police intervened and used pepper spray to disperse the protesters.

Erdogan was in Vienna for a private meeting with 7,000 of his closest friends and supporters in Austria.

The visit has stirred controversy, with Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache warning him to stay home, and Austrian foreign minister Sebastien Kurz telling him to avoid making damaging remarksin his speech.

The Local

*

Austrian far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday to “stay at home,” ahead of a controversial election rally planned in Vienna later this month.

The populist Freedom Party (FPOe) opposes Turkey’s proposed admission to the European Union and is also strongly anti-immigration and anti-Islam.

In recent EU elections, the FPOe — which has been seeking an alliance with France’s National Front and Italy’s Northern League — won 19.7 percent of votes, finishing third behind the ruling parties.

The Local

Vienna Massive Police Presence

We landed in Vienna today and during our first walk around the massive Stephanplatz walking area noticed a few police vans, then a few more, then dozens.  We walked towards the even more massive Heidenplatz to see more and more vans, in caravans or arrayed along streets, each filled with 6 police in complete armor, from boot shields to hard helmets.  WTF?

Crowds of strollers hardly seemed to notice.  Was such an event normal or is it protective coloration not to stare at police?  A few we asked had no more idea than we did.  Was a head of state arriving?  A helicopter hovered, its sharp, irritating hum filling every street.

Vienna Police

It turns out a demonstration of right-wing fraternities had been promised, and along with it, counter demonstrations from the left.

A group of Austrian right-wing student fraternities known as the Burschenschaften will be marching in Vienna today. Several counter demonstrations are planned, and police are urging restraint.

According to a report in the Heute newspaper, 500 members of the academic Burschenschaften of the Wiener Korporationsring (WKR) have registered with police to march a planned route on Wednesday, starting at 5pm at Josephsplatz.

The Local – Austria’s News in English