Sunday, September 28, 2008
Far-right parties surge in Austria
Just when it looked as if the countries of the European Union would remain among the world's most stable nations, far-right parties in Austria made huge gains in today's parliamentary elections. The Reuters international news service reported that nearly a third of voters cast their ballots for candidates of Austria's two largest far-right parties, raising doubts that the mainstream Social Democrats can assemble a secure coalition. It was the worst showing for the Social Democrats and the other leading mainstream party, the conservative Peoples Party, since World War II. The results mean the anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant far-right parties could be brought into the government because the Social Democrats and the Peoples Party have been unable to resolve differences that broke up their last coalition government in 2005. The pro-environment Greens party also lost ground and finished behind the two largest parties and the two far-right parties, Heinz-Christian Strache's far right Freedom Party and Joerg Haider's right-wing populist Alliance for Austria's Future. Analysts attributed the election results to Austrians' dissatisfaction to Parliament's inability to approve anti-inflation measures. The Freedom Party was part of the ruling coalition in 2000, prompting European Union sanctions.