Austria far right: 'Nobody has anything to fear' says new minister


Alexander Van der Bellen, Sebastian Kurz and Heinz-Christian Strache speaking in from of an Austrian and a EU flag at the Hofburg in Vienna, Austria (December 16, 2017)Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Austria’s president (L) confirmed approved the coalition led by Sebastian Kurz (C)

Austria’s next interior minister has said “nobody has anything to fear” from the new coalition government.

Far-right politician Herbert Kickl, a senior figure in the Freedom Party, said he had “a very, very good feeling” about the new coalition with the conservative People’s Party.

Austria’s president approved the new coalition on Saturday, two months after inconclusive elections.

People’s Party leader Sebastian Kurz, 31, will be Austria’s new chancellor.

He will become the world’s youngest head of government.

President Alexander Van der Bellen said the new government had assured him of both a pro-EU stance and a continued commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights.

As well as the interior ministry, the anti-immigrant Freedom Party has secured several other key posts.

Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache will be vice-chancellor. His party colleagues will run the defence and health and social security ministries.

The new foreign minister will be Middle East expert and writer Karin Kneissl, who is not a Freedom Party member but was nominated by the party.

Analysis: A rare far-right success

Bethany Bell, Vienna

Unlike most of Europe’s populist parties, the Freedom Party has managed to translate its success at the ballot box into real political power.

It has been a major player in Austrian politics for decades. In recent years, the party has toned down some of its more extreme rhetoric.

But many analysts believe that, in or out of government, it has helped set a right-wing agenda, not just in Austria – but in other countries across Europe as well.

Its stance against immigration is becoming more mainstream, along with its populist tone.

During the election campaign, the Freedom Party accused Mr Kurz of stealing their policies. Heinz-Christian Strach, his new vice-chancellor, branded him an “imposter”.

When the far-right Freedom Party last entered a coalition in Austria in 2000, its fellow EU member states froze bilateral diplomatic relations in response.

Those diplomatic sanctions were lifted months later, after the move failed to force the Freedom Party out of government and amid fears that continued sanctions could further increase nationalist tensions.

That is unlikely to happen again, as resurgent right-wing populist groups have been promoting anti-immigration and Eurosceptic agendas across much of the EU.

But unlike the Freedom Party, those other parties have struggled to convert electoral success into real power.

Earlier this year, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party lost the French presidential election comprehensively. Ms Le Pen was defeated by Emmanuel Macron, a liberal centrist and strong supporter of the European Union.

Elsewhere, the Dutch anti-immigration Freedom Party of Geert Wilders was defeated by liberal leader Mark Rutte.

In Germany, the nationalist and populist right of Alternative for Germany (AfD) gained seats in the national parliament, where it is now the third biggest party, but it is not in the frame for coalition talks.


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