Austrian Social Democrats Open to Allying With Nationalist Party

Austria’s Social Democratic chancellor cast aside taboos against building coalitions with nationalists after a regional group of his party clinched a coalition deal with the anti-immigrant Freedom Party.

Regional alliances with the Freedom Party should be possible as long as politicians clearly state their intentions during campaigns, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said late Monday in a statement. He said that at the national level, his Social Democrats still won’t build coalitions with the euro-skeptic party.

“The Social Democrats have to be clear about what they stand for,” Faymann said. “There have to be clear boundaries placed on Freedom Party instigations.”

Faymann accepted cooperation with the Freedom Party after the Social Democrats lost support in provincial elections last month. In Burgenland, on Austria’s southeast border to Hungary, the two parties have agreed to form a coalition. Politicians are still negotiating in the southern province of Styria, where Freedom Party support surged in the May 31 vote.

Led by Heinz-Christian Strache, 45, a charismatic dental technician who took over after the 2008 death of Joerg Haider, the Freedom Party has gained traction in recent elections by mixing populist slogans with an anti-immigrant stance.

“New apartments, not new mosques,” was one Freedom Party slogan. Another was: “Foreign in your own land? Maintain homeland values.”

Children Refugees

Austrian newspapers showed pictures this week of Freedom Party supporters waving anti-asylum placards in front of Syrian children seeking refuge from their war-torn country. The party has released statements railing against “black African car dealers,” a mandatory kindergarten year for all children and spending on culture in Vienna.

“You can’t stop us anymore,” Strache told reporters earlier this month.

According to a June 6 poll published by Der Standard newspaper, the Freedom Party would win a national election with 28 percent of the vote if elections were held now. The Social Democrats and conservative People’s Party, who currently form Austria’s ruling coalition, would tie for second place with 23 percent support each.

Austria’s next general election is scheduled for the third quarter of 2018.

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