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Soul-searching in Austria over far-right advance

Soul-searching in Austria over far-right advance
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For some it is time to celebrate, for others it is a time of soul-searching. After the far-right won almost a third of the vote in Austria’s parliamentary election on Sunday, analysts are trying to work out why.

Some say voters were simply punishing the two outgoing left-right coalition partners. Others say there really is a rise in anti-immigrant, anti-European Union sentiment.

One man in Vienna said: “I think this was the response of a lot of people who were unhappy with the coalition we had for the past two years. This is what happened here. I grew up during a time when a swing to the right had consequences, grave consequences.”

The Social Democrats scored just under 30 percent and the conservative OVP party just over 25 percent. The far-right Freedom Party scored 18 percent and Jorg Haider’s far-right Alliance for Austria’s Future won 11 percent.

With coalition talks likely to be difficult, there was a guarded response from Brussels. A spokesman said: “We look forward to the continuation of Austria’s role as an important partner in the European Union and its constructive contribution.”

Jorg Haider and Heinz Christian Strache, the leader of the FPO, are celebrating their advances, promising their supporters action on policies. However, neither man knows exactly what role, if any, they will play in the future political landscape. The leader of the biggest party, the Social Democrats, has already ruled out any coalition with the far-right, saying he favours another broad left-right coalition.

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