Global Independent Analytics

Austrian Chancellor Resigns Amid Rise in Right-Wing Populism

Wenrer Faymann resigned abruptly after nearly eight years in office, throwing his country into deeper political uncertainty

Alison Smale for The New York Post reports: The resignation occurred amid a rightward shift in Austrian politics, fueled by anxieties over the migration crisis.

“I am grateful that I was allowed to serve the country,” Werner Faymann, the chancellor since 2008, said at a news conference in Vienna, announcing that he was stepping down as both the chancellor and as the leader of his party, the center-left Social Democrats.

Now the chair in the office will be temporarily taken over by Michael Häupl, the veteran mayor of Vienna, who won a tight race last year with a pro-immigrant stance.

Although Mr. Faymann was in trouble, the timing of his announcement came as a surprise to many Austrians.

“We need to fight unemployment, guarantee social cohesion and, in the refugee crisis, ensure order and humanity,” Mr. Faymann said. “The question was thus: Did I have the full support of a strong backing from the party? I have to answer in the negative. The majority is not enough. However, I want to thank all colleagues who have stood with me in these days.”

The first round of election has provided far-right Freedom Party’s leader Norbert Nofer with more than a third of a vote. The party has already successfully ridden the wave of anxiety over the flood of migrants in September. Its strident anti-Islam rhetoric seems to have struck a chord even in Vienna, the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with its tremendous diversity of ethnicity and language.

The former Chancellor Faymann has previously expressed his sympathy towards Ms. Merkel’s welcoming refugee policy, but opinion polls consistently showed that the Freedom Party, a far-right group hostile to immigrants and asylum seekers, was in the top position nationally, and the chancellor eventually switched course, joining with his government partners in the mainstream center-right party, the Austrian People’s Party, in building fences on the borders and orchestrating the Balkan states along the migrant route to do the same.

That position has provoked sharp criticism from many Social Democrats. But opinion polls consistently showed that the Freedom Party, a far-right group hostile to immigrants and asylum seekers, was in the top position nationally, and the chancellor eventually switched course, joining with his government partners in the mainstream center-right party, the Austrian People’s Party, in building fences on the borders and orchestrating the Balkan states along the migrant route to do the same.

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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