Dienstag, 24. Mai 2016

Austria - Barely Saved From Fascism?

The recent Austrian presidential elections have provoked amazing international interest and speculations. The international media, above all from the Anglo-Saxon world, created the fear that, before long, men with armbands would march again and round up undesired residents.

The most balanced commentary I have read during these past few days is this: "Austria is leagues beyond its past; so stop invoking it!"

One of the more shocking commentaries I have read is this from a Latin media group: "In Austria, fascism is one step away from power!". Regrettably, quality papers like the NYT blew exactly into the same horn. Let me try to support my argumentation.

All those who see Austria as home of the extreme right and one step away from putting on brownshirts again I encourage to take note of the following: Austria is now the first country in the world which has a Green as a head of state, elected directly by the people. No asylant homes have ever burnt in Austria, a country where the German Pegida wanted to set foot and failed miserably. A country which, last year, accepted 90.000 asylum applications and another 19.000 so far this year (as percentage of the population, that’s more than Germany!).

In the 70 years since WW2, Austria had a socialist (then renamed „social democratic“) chancellor for over 40 years and since 2007 it has been a social democrat without interruption. During the other years it was the conservative party which put up the chancellor. Not once has there been a right wing (or left wing) radical in any government. Certainly within the OECD (and possibly within the entire word), Austria has the most expanded social welfare state when measured in terms of redistributed incomes. There is minimum income, full health insurance and retirement income for EVERY Austrian resident, national or foreign. Austria has one of the most attractive welcome packages for refugees! The so-called extreme right FPOe has never once questioned the nature of Austria’s welfare state!

What Emran Feroz writes in Telesur is nothing other than a self-disqualification. To suggest that Austria was „one step away from fascism“ this past weekend is a joke, to put it mildly. Anyone who agrees with that only gives testimony to his own ignorance. To describe the roots of the FPOe as „deeply connected with the Nazis“ falls into the same category. The roots of the FPOe are the liberal risings against the monarchy of 1848. They have never been left or right, they have always been liberal in the sense of the classic English liberals and national in the German sense. Many FPOe members have trouble with the concept of an "Austrian Nation" because they believe that Austrians are part of the German cultural heritage. Things changed after 1945. Those defined as ‚former Nazis‘ were excluded from voting in elections for a few years. When they were ‚freed‘ again after about 5 years, a fierce competition for their votes took place because they tended to represent the upper end of society. The conservatives took their share and the socialists their share. And those who didn’t make it either to the conservatives or socialists stayed with the FPOe. A case could be made that those who stayed with the FPOe were the greatest believers of all but they have all died by now.

The only Austrian government that ever included former Nazis was that of Bruno Kreisky, the legendary socialist, in 1970. Kreisky negotiated that with the then head of the FPOe, a former SS officer who had been involved with extermination activities in the East (!) but who, for obvious reasons, stayed out of government. Kreisky, the socialists’ ideal, gave ministerial posts to a total of 6 former Nazis. No Austrian chancellor before or after Kreisky had ever done that. So much for that!

The SPOe was Austria’s 'party of the workers'. Today, the FPOe has assumed that role. And here is the catch: the threat of fascism in Austria is always put forward when the SPOe is threatened to be kicked out of government! And the SPOe-influenced public Radio & TV supports that propaganda very nicely.

There were 6 candidates in this year’s election, a first! Since 1945, the president had always been a toss-up between the SPOe and OeVP. This year, the candidates of those two parties came out as numbers 4 and 5 with a combined 23% of the vote. A true slap in the face. Deservedly so! My favorite came out as number 3; she missed the finals by 1%. She would have made a great president! A retired head of Austria's supreme court; never affiliated with any party; completely unknown a year ago; campaigning without any support, only on the basis of her credentials, credibility and value structure. With her gone, I looked at number 1 and 2. Number 1 (the Populist) wasn’t exactly my cup of tea but since I really disliked number 2 (the Green), I would have been forced to vote for the Populist. So I didn’t vote at all. 

Please ponder this: if Donald Trump campaigned in Austria, Norbert Hofer (the Populist) would be considered center/center-left and all the others more or less far-left. To stamp Hofer and/or his party as „extreme right“ or „right-wing radical“ will accomplish nothing other than motivating those who would never have considered voting for them to eventually do vote for them. If for no other reason than to show that they don’t like unfair treatment.

Friedrich von Hayek, the nemesis of all socialists, once argued that it was the socialists who paved the way for National Socialism. All those who celebrate today that Austria was saved from fascism this past weekend are paving the road for an FPOe-government in 2018 (or earlier, if early elections are triggered). Don’t forget: the FPOe registered 20% at the last election of 2013 (behind OeVP and SPOe). Today, polls show it at well over 30%, far ahead of both, OeVP and SPOe. Norbert Hofer received 49,7% of the vote. So clearly, not only FPOe voters voted for Hofer. This was the first time than non-FPOe voters voted in huge numbers for an FPOe candidate. What is the message of that?

My answer: the message is that people know when they are being manipulated and they don’t want to be manipulated. Many Austrians just didn’t buy this stuff about fascism being around the corner and they decided to prove that with their vote. Keep opinion leaders forecasting that fascism is around the corner and the FPOe will head the next Austrian government, for sure.

ADDENDUM per June 2, 2016
As is now known, never before in Austrian history have postal votes played as important a role as in this election. They accounted for 12% of total votes in the First Round and 17% of total votes in the Final Round.

Postal votes increased by 205.565 votes from 534.774 to 740.339 votes (+38%). For postal votes to have increased by such an enormous percentage within only one month allows a number of speculations. It definitely suggests that there has been an organized effort to get postal votes out. One city made an interesting observation. As a general rule, every polling station records a certain number of invalid votes. Only one exception in that city: the nursing home. One can only assume that elderly and perhaps senile people are more skilled in filling out voting forms than any other group of voters.

Keine Kommentare:

Kommentar veröffentlichen