Austrian Party That Wants to Bring Back Nazi Imagery Wins Big
In Austria's recent national elections, voters gave significant support to a party that seeks to bring back Nazi symbols and salutes. The anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO), headed by Heinz-Christian Strache, former dental assistant and representative of Europe's Cities Against Islamisation group, won 18 percent of the vote.
Another anti-immigrant party, the Alliance for Austria's Future, led by Jörg Haider, a former Freedom Party leader who broke away and formed a new party in 2005, got 11 percent of the vote. Together, these allied parties won almost a third of the vote, giving them huge gains over the traditional leading parties, the center-left Social Democrats and the conservative Austrian People's Party.
According to AFP, "the exact distribution of the 183 parliamentary seats will only be officially announced on October 6, 2008. But the combined score of the far-right parties would put them in second place ahead of the conservatives."
In 2000, when anti-immigrant parties also gained significant power, the People's Party formed a coalition with the Freedom Party. As a result, Israel recalled its ambassador in protest. The United States also recalled its ambassador "for consultations." European governments began downgrading relations with the Austrian government. Reacting to world opinion, then-president of the FPO Jörg Haider began to downplay his anti-immigrant, pro-Nazi stance. But similar attempts by the FPO to downplay these sentiments now aren't having much of an effect.
Jewish leaders from Vienna to Israel expressed significant alarm about Austria's election results. Raimund Fastenbauer, director general of Vienna's Jewish community, said:
"Strache wants the banning of the use of Nazis' symbols and Nazis' ideas to be lifted. Such attitude speaks for itself," he said.
He added: "Not all people who vote for him are neo-Nazis, but the hard core of his party has extreme right-wing backgrounds. He gives people having a neo-Nazi past high positions within the party."
Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Ynet:
"We are very concerned over the rise to power of people who promote hatred of foreigners and Holocaust denial, and befriend neo-Nazis. We see it as a disturbing development and are following the matter very closely." ...
However, he also stressed that "it is still early to attempt any alteration in the diplomatic relations between the two countries. We are merely following developments with concern."
Strache is a member of Cities Against Islamisation and his Freedom Party is assumed by many to be anti-Islam. So, why aren't we also hearing immediate cries of alarm from Muslim media outlets like Iran's Tehran Times?
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