Austrian Voters Reject Immigration

Michael Walker, American Renaissance, October 16, 2017

Sunday’s elections saw decisive gains for the Right in Austria.

Mountain peoples, like island peoples, tend to be suspicious of foreigners, hold their traditions and history dear, and are conscious of the fragility of a confined homeland in the face of more numerous peoples and larger states. For a country like Austria, “white flight” is not feasible, and the term has no convenient German translation. Austria is too small. Besides, Austrians prefer to die in the country–even in many cases in the town or village–where they were born.

Austria was spared much of the Selbsthass (self-hatred) and political Umerziehung (“re-education”) which has characterized its West German neighbor. This is in part because Austria did not experience the radical break with a German heritage which is so obvious in West Germany; traditions are upheld in Austria by young and old. Also, Austria was historically the barrier against which the Islamic invasion of the 16th and 17th century foundered, and many Austrians are conscious and proud of that to this day. Enthusiasts of multiculturalism regard Austria with suspicion and distrust. Austrians are too obviously conscious of their identity to become reliable citizens of the world.

Politics in Austria are sometimes reminiscent of a Strauss opera. Extravagant and forthright characters, often with theatrical sounding names, campaign on behalf of parties with obscure sounding initials while performing a colorful act by way of a political campaign for their compatriots. Aside from a small but vociferous and nihilistic far-left margin—more prominent on the art scene than the political scene—Austria is socially and culturally conservative. The latest elections have given no succor to those hoping that might change.

Sunday’s parliamentary elections were called in the wake of a scandal, resignation, and realignment that culminated in the breakup of the governing coalition of the socialist SPÖ and the conservative ÖVP. It was brought to an end by the resignation of Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner of the ÖVP. Following his sudden departure from office, and the refusal of the new ÖVP leader to continue in coalition, Chancellor Christian Kern was compelled to call an election. The reason for Mr. Mitterlehner’s resignation was a sign of Austria’s shift rightwards in recent years. He was “fed up,” he said, with the coalition government’s “failure to tighten immigration laws.”

Immigration dominated the elections. Austria is traditionally a very law abiding country, and crime and immigration are closely associated in people’s minds, and with good reason: Statistics from the Austrian Criminal Bureau in March 2016, for example, indicate that among Algerian asylum seekers between 2003 and 2014, there were over 150 criminal charges per 100 claims for asylum. Nigerians were in third place with just over 125 charges per 100 claims for asylum. Over 14 percent of the official population of the republic is now of foreign extraction—the majority non-European. At the beginning of 2016, the population of Austria was 8.7 million, an increase of 115,000 since 2015. Ninety-eight percent of the increase is due to non-Austrian births. The total population is increasing annually by 1.35 percent, while the ethnic Austrian reproduction rate is at break-even. Moreover, these official statistics do not take illegal immigration into account, and according to the popular newspaper die Presse, as of 2010 there were probably 100,000 illegal immigrants in Austria. The numbers today could easily be over a quarter of a million. In 2015, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in defiance of EU law, her country’s law, and all sanity, instructed that border controls be lifted to allow “refugees” from Syria into the German Republic. Many of them passed through Austria and others remained there.

“2015 was a shock for many people in this country. Thanks to the policy of turning a blind eye the number of asylum claims has sky rocketed to 90,000. We must decide who enters Austria and we must reduce the number of illegal immigrants to zero.” This clear statement is not from the nationalist Freedom Party of Austria (the FPÖ founded by Jörg Haider, who died in a traffic accident in 2008) but from the conservatives under their new leader Sebastian Kurz, the successor to Reinhold Mitterlehner. This declaration of intent is also on Mr. Kurz’s own website. He is the good-looking, energetic, influential and articulate leader of the ODP. He is only 31 years old and looks even younger.

Sebastian Kurz (Credit Image: © Herbert Neubauer/APA Picturedesk via ZUMA Press)

Sebastian Kurz’s rapid rise to power has been even more astonishing than that of France’s Emanuel Macron, whom he in some respects resembles. (Like Mr. Macron, he has fashioned a personality-based party, moving away from local constituency-based and seniority-based candidate selection). Appointed in 2013 as Europe’s youngest foreign minister when he was 27 years old, in 2016 he demanded the closing of the Balkan route for migrants and a ceiling on the number of refugees permitted to enter Austria. The Balkan route has seen up to a million migrants from the middle East (nobody knows the exact figures) in less than two years. The border was effectively closed in 2016, mainly, it would seem, thanks to Mr. Kurz and his good relations with politicians in neighboring states, notably Croatia.

Mr. Kurz has also brought a new expression into public debate in Austria: “political Islam,” which broadens the category of Muslims the state should reject to include not only terrorist sympathizers but Muslims promoting pro-Islamic political change. His program calls for closing what he calls “politically Islamic” schools. He has also called for a “Marshall Plan” for Africa, in the hope that Africans will not be tempted to migrate to Europe at all. Skepticism about the success of such a plan is not out of place and details of such a Marshall Plan have yet to be revealed, but the very suggestion of such a project will cause consternation among European leaders. It runs counter to the current mixture of state aid and a free hand for private businesses and charity NGOs—often the same NGOs that promote and actively support illegal immigration into Europe.

Conservative politicians across Western Europe usually compromise and speak in vague generalities when it comes to the “unpleasant” subject of mass immigration. Sebastian Kurz speaks calmly, clearly, emphatically, and welcomes opportunities to tackle the subject head on. Mr. Kurz has provided the ÖDP with the youthful image of a new party (his most enthusiastic followers, not picked from the now abolished local party power centers, seem to be extremely youthful). He has even given the ÖVP a new party color—turquoise—and his sharp swing to the right has poached on the ideological territory of the FPÖ, which has hitherto monopolized criticism of uncontrolled immigration and Muslims who fail to integrate. Under Hans Strache, who only 10 years ago was himself the young wonder boy of Austrian politics, the party went from strength to strength, only to lose the limelight to the new kid on the block. During the campaign, Mr. Strache even turned to socialist themes of fairness in an attempt to outflank the increasingly popular pro free-market Mr. Kurz. However, in marked contrast to Britain, where promises about immigration control by the Conservative Party have repeatedly spoiled the chances of more radical anti-immigration parties, Mr. Kurz’s move to the right has not damaged Mr. Strache at all. The FPÖ also did extremely well in the election, increasing its share of the vote by over 7 percent.

In this election, Austria took a clear step to the right. Voters turned away from internationalism by the hundreds of thousand if not by the millions. At the time of writing (postal votes still to be counted) these are the results:

Austrian Peoples Party (ÖVP) 31.6 percent

Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) 27.4 percent

Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) 26.7 percent

Also bad news for internationalists, the pro-migrant Green party did not even clear the 4 percent hurdle to enter parliament. This was largely owing to a protest by a prominent former Green politician who created an alternative list opposed to the Green open boarders policy, and his list did clear the 4 percent hurdle. Vienna bucked the national trend with 34,9 percent for the SPÖ, ÖVP with 21.6 percent, FPÖ with 21 percent, and the Greens with 6.1 percent. This fits a pattern now emerging across Western Europe: Big cities with a combined vote of immigrants and urban professionals vote left/internationalist against the rest of the nation.

Alexander van der Bellen, the Green President of Austria, who has admitted “bitter disappointment” at the results, will have no alternative but to ask Mr. Kurz as the leader of the largest party to form a government. This means it is almost certain that Mr. Kurz will be the next Chancellor of Austria, his revamped right-wing conservative party supported by the FPÖ, which has always been deeply opposed to non-European immigration. The FPÖ has achieved the best results in its history.

Heinz-Christian Strache with his wife Philippa (L) and Norbert Hofer (R) celebrates after the results of the general elections in Vienna on October 15, 2017. (Credit Image: © Hans Klaus Techt/APA Picturedesk via ZUMA Press)

All this will be welcome to the Visegrád nations, whose hard line against migrants is now likely to have new backing in the EU. The pressure from internationalists, especially in Berlin, against their closed border policies has been immense. These results should help counterbalance the pressure from Berlin to accept EU-designated migrant quotas. By the same token, this is bad news for those who want an “open boarder,” Europe and the “free movement of peoples.” Austria is due to take over the presidency of the European Council, but nobody had expected the presidency to fall into the hands of a critic of mass immigration. In February, Donald Tusk met the Chancellor (then Christian Kern) and President of Austria (the internationalist Green, van der Bellen) and declared that “one of the issues we discussed is our cooperation when Austria takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of the next year. . . . I assured the President and the Chancellor of my full support and cooperation.” This seems to be unlikely now. When Austria does assume the presidency, the president of the council will not be the Social Democrat Christian Kern but almost certainly Sebastian Kurz. There are sure to have been very long faces in Berlin at that news.

However one interprets these election results, it is certain that the “open border” scheme for Europe has suffered a reverse. Mr. Kurz has already started talking of a plan to close the Mediterranean route, the same way as the Balkan route was closed. As minister in the last government he helped enact measures to repatriate asylum seekers who went on holiday to the countries from which they had supposedly fled as refugees. He waves aside objections that his plan to halt migration across the Mediterranean would be complicated. “It is not complicated, it is simple” he assured journalists. “Migrants crossing the Mediterranean will simply be taken back to Africa.”

A SORA exit pole should be another source of concern for internationalists. It is not the “aged and embittered,” as internationalists characterize those who voted “leave” in the British referendum, who support the FPÖ or the ÖVP. Here are the voting intentions for 16-29 year olds:

FPÖ: 30%

ÖVP: 28%

SPÖ: 27%

This means the most firmly anti-immigrant party got the most support.

Despite these promising results, there are reasons for caution. One is that there are very likely to be tensions in any coalition government between ÖVP and FPÖ, at the human as much if not more than the political level. The previous coalition between nationalists and conservatives between 2000 and 2005 did not end well for nationalists. The then nationalist leader Jörg Haider was not able to wrest significant concessions from conservatives and his political fortunes plummeted.

Second, it is legitimate to wonder just how authentic the new populist wonder boy of Austrian politics really is. Is he too good to be true? Could Mr. Kurz be a sort of made-in-China fake Rolex? A droll FPÖ election campaign video depicts a biker demanding to be tattooed with an image of Mr. Kurz on his back. At the end of the session he is horrified to discover that the tattoo artist has embellished his back with the faces of ageing known ÖVP politicians! “Agh! What have you done?” howls the biker. “You asked me to tattoo Kurz so I tattooed the ÖVP. Kurz is the ÖVP,” retorts the unrepentant tattoo artist. The biker faints in horror. He is woken by a benevolent Mr. Strache who tells him that the FPÖ is the real thing and if the real thing is what he wants, he must vote FPÖ.

The climate in Europe has changed, and it is highly unlikely that any call to boycott Austria, like the boycotts and preening organized by the multiculturalists in response to the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition of 17 years ago, will make much impression this time round. Hostility to mass immigration has gone mainstream. Mr. Kurz looks like a man who means what he says, and an ambitious Mr. Strache is breathing down his neck should he veer away from his promise to reduce illegal immigration to zero. With the exception of Great Britain, social democracy is on the retreat everywhere in Europe, and this is reflected in a greater degree of acceptance of pro-white policies (even though no prominent politician dares call them that yet). In most countries in Europe it is no longer politically marginal to demand an end to uncontrolled immigration. Even in deeply liberal West Germany the anti-immigration AfD has chalked up good results. The results in Austria are a hopeful sign that at long last European voters may be coming to their senses.

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Michael Walker
Michael Walker is a writer and journalist who lives in France. He was editor of “The Scorpion,” and is the author of the play The Return of Odysseus.
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