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Page last updated at 20:35 GMT, Sunday, 28 September 2008 21:35 UK

Far-right gains in Austria vote

Posters showing the Leader of the far-right Fredom Party Heinz-Christian Strache (R) and Social Democrat chairman Werner Faymann.
Austrians have shifted from centrist to far-right parties

Austria's Social Democrats won the most votes in the country's early election but far-right parties made significant gains, the interior ministry has said.

Preliminary official results from Sunday's poll show Social Democrats with 29.7% of the vote.

But the country's two far-right parties made large gains, winning a total vote share of 29% between them.

The BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna said that rise in support is the result of protest votes on a variety of issues.

Our correspondent said the resurgent far right can be attributed to a mixture of anti-European Union sentiment, some anti-immigrant positions and a general sense of discontent with the two traditional centrist parties.

The conservative People's Party, which had been in a faltering coalition with the Social Democrats that collapsed after 18 months, won 25.6%.

Young voters

Interior Minister Maria Fekter said the far-right Freedom Party had won 18.01% of the vote and the Alliance for the Future of Austria had 10.98%.

AUSTRIA FACTS
Population: 8.3m
Electorate: 6.3m
16 and 17-year-old voters: 200,000
National Council seats: 183

Our correspondent described the far-right gains as a "slap in the face" to the centrist parties, which suffered their worst results since World War II.

Final results will not be released until 6 October after absentee and postal ballots, making up about 10% of the votes, are counted.

For the first time in an EU country, 16 and 17-year-olds were able to vote. This bloc represented about 200,000 of the 6.3 million-strong electorate.

Elections were last held in October 2006. It took a further six months for the government to form a cabinet.

The far-right showing was its strongest since 2000, when the Freedom Party won 28% and gained a place in the coalition government with the conservatives.

That development sparked outrage across Europe and for several months Austria was placed under EU sanctions.

Analysts say the far right could now re-enter government but only after all other options are exhausted.

These include another grand coalition - an option most Austrians oppose - or pacts with the Greens or the two other smaller parties.


Your comments:

As a first-time voter I am glad to see the direct impact of young people to democracy. I can understand the fears of a slide to the right wing, but I am definitely sure that a major part of those who voted right wing parties simply voiced their discontent with the disputes between the grand coalition parties. Therefore, there is no reason for fears of a new "Nazi-Austria".
Rupert, Austria (Graz)

This is a horrific result but it was obvious that this was going to happen. Here is my attempt to explain this result: Austrians in general are not "right-friendly" at all. It was a vote to show the two major parties (social democrats and the conservatives) that they didn't do a very good job in the past two years. I think Austrians are shocked with the result and some actually don't even feel safe there anymore. It is terrible what bad politicians can do to a great country.
Stefan Herovitsch, Soll, Tirol, Austria

Slogans like "Austria for Austrians" and "Our land for our children" have been tolerated by the government during the electoral campaign, showing the deep xenophobic state of Austrian society. At the same time all sectors of Austrian everyday life cannot exist without foreigners, from the cleaning services to the great orchestras. These results are not only a slash in the face of the two big parties. It is an insult for all democratic, peaceful and progressive forces in Austria. But the future is multicultural. Schools are filled with Austrian children whose parents are not Austrian born. I just wonder how voters of FP and BZ imagine their country: no-one to work in their factories, no-one to preach in their churches, no tourists, no musicians, no artists, no EU, only 'pure bloods', poor and old inhabitants of an empty country. A pretty odd place.
Lawrence K., Vienna, Austria

Unfortunately I could not vote in the elections, as I am a British citizen. The results show that a lot of the young (16 to 18-year-olds) voted FP, due to their ability to get across simple, clear messages. The communication of the Green party was abysmal, the SP and VP were punished for their childish bickering in the last government, so people generally went for the simple solution of the neo-fascists, unfortunately. Now it is up to Mr Faymann and a new VP leader (Mr Prll probably) to form a coalition that lasts, and not give in to bickering. I would also like to see the Greens in a coalition, as, although they only got 10%, it is up to the democratic centre-left to oppose the far-right. I am appalled by this result - Austria should be ashamed of itself.
Rod Pritchard-Smith, Vienna

I suppose there will be another election by next spring because with this results there is no constant majority to build a cabinet. The far right will hopefully not be asked to join the government. Where such a step can lead to we have seen in the past. And continuing a grand coalition is definitely not the best idea - after having caused the early election this is not exactly what Austrians want to. If they do so, the question is: what are elections for? Ask the public what they want and then reject their vote and carry on? I am not sure if this is the best way. It seems to become an Austrian hobby - going regularly to elections.
Klaus, Vienna

I'm feeling ashamed of being Austrian.
Sunflowers1979, vienna

I feel ashamed living in this country! Right extremism is unfortunately not history in Austria, it's the reality. Social Democrats and People's Party failed with their programmes to keep the electorate on their side. Moreover, the electorate is obviously not only desperate, but too dumb to resist the propaganda of the right wing. More education for Austria!
Benedikt Weigand, Vienna, Austria

It is the third time I am voting. I got citizenship 10 years ago and in all these years I followed with high interest the political development in Austria. As for the last election, I would not say that the win of the two right parties (FP and BZ) are only results of protest again SP and VP. I believe this is a kind of natural development in all the democratic countries. The frustration of the population facing tough economical challenges, missing of a clear programme for the future of the big coalition, internal political changes inside SP and VP, the need for a change as well as a new generation of voters with total different view on the globalisation and EU policy are some of the natural factors of this results.
Adrian Haxhiaj, Vienna

I am from England, and have lived in Austria for just over a year, and am disappointed and angry that people made their "protest vote" by voting for the far right, I am a little confused by this way of protesting, and giving their democratic right to vote for some populist and racist parties. There are better ways to protest.
Alfred Frodden, Austria


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Austria
03 Jul 08 |  Country profiles

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