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New Austrian anti-lockdown party seeking more seats after election coup

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By Reuters
New Austrian anti-lockdown party seeking more seats after election coup
New Austrian anti-lockdown party seeking more seats after election coup   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021   -  

<div> <p><span class="caps">VIENNA</span> – A new Austrian political party that opposes lockdowns, compulsory mask-wearing and other coronavirus restrictions hopes to spread across the country after surprisingly securing seats in one of Austria’s nine provincial parliaments on Sunday.</p> <p>People Freedom Fundamental Rights (<span class="caps">MFG</span>), a newly created party that campaigned online and with a tour of bars and restaurants, stunned many observers by securing 6.2% of the vote in Upper Austria’s election on Sunday, above the 4% threshold required to enter the provincial parliament.</p> <p>The province of Upper Austria, home to Linz, the country’s third-biggest city, and bordering Germany and the Czech Republic, is home to much of Austria’s heavy industry. </p> <p>It is also a stronghold of the far-right Freedom Party (<span class="caps">FPO</span>) and has the lowest coronavirus vaccination rate in Austria with 55.5% of people fully inoculated, versus 60.3% nationally.</p> <p>“We will run in Salzburg, we will run in Carinthia, we will run in the national parliamentary election,” <span class="caps">MFG</span> leader Markus Brunner, a lawyer who has challenged the constitutionality of coronavirus restrictions in the courts, told <span class="caps">ORF</span> radio, referring to future provincial and federal ballots.</p> <p>None of those are, however, due to be held until 2023, by which time many hope the pandemic will have ended.</p> <p><span class="caps">MFG</span>’s manifesto stops short of opposing <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 vaccinations but says it is for an “absolute freedom to choose” and against the unvaccinated being disadvantaged.</p> <p>Its success was all the more surprising since the <span class="caps">FPO</span> has taken a similar stance on restrictions and vaccines, though it is part of the Upper Austrian provincial government that has overseen coronavirus restrictions.</p> <p>While the <span class="caps">FPO</span>’s share of the vote fell more than 10 points to 19.8%, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives retained first place, rising by 1 percentage point to 37.6%. The Social Democrats came third with a barely changed 18.6%. Data from pollster <span class="caps">SORA</span> showed <span class="caps">MFG</span> gained voters from various parties. </p> <p/> </div>