Anti-govern­ment protests in Vi­enna’s Ball­haus­platz show di­vided Aus­trian youth

The po­lit­i­cal views of young peo­ple in Aus­tria are sharply split, with the left or­ga­niz­ing anti-rightwing govern­ment protests and the right main­tain­ing faith in their youth­ful chan­cel­lor

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - International -

LEFT- wing or­ga­niz­ers have re­vived the weekly “Thurs­day protests” from the early 2000s to voice their sharp dis­agree­ment with the right-wing govern­ment of the con­ser­va­tive re­ac­tionary Aus­trian Peo­ple's Party (ÖVP) and the na­tion­al­ist Aus­trian Free­dom Party (FPÖ).

The ÖVP-FPÖ coali­tion with 32-yearold Aus­trian Chan­cel­lor Se­bas­tian Kurz at the helm has im­ple­mented nu­mer­ous anti-im­mi­gra­tion and other pop­ulist poli­cies that have left both the op­po­si­tion and their dis­united back­ers in dis­ar­ray since the his­toric elec­tion of Oct. 15, 2017.

To make mat­ters worse, the protesters have failed to gain po­lit­i­cal mo­men­tum, since the last leg­isla­tive elec­tion opin­ion polls showed sup­port for both the ÖVP and the FPÖ has gone up sig­nif­i­cantly, while the num­bers of the main op­po­si­tion So­cial Democrats (SPÖ) party have re­mained frus­trat­ingly stag­nant.

The poli­cies and con­tro­ver­sial but well-re­ceived rhetoric of the coali­tion govern­ment, as well as the fact that the FPÖ has been ac­cused of be­ing a xeno­pho­bic, anti-Semitic party of Nazi-sym­pa­thiz­ers, has not made a good im­pres­sion on the Aus­trian peo­ple, who say that they care more about the present and fu­ture rather than what a party had been do­ing be­fore they had even turned 18.

Aus­tria is unique among other Western na­tions, which have also seen a rise in re­ac­tionary, na­tion­al­ist and pop­ulist politi­cians. While the younger gen­er­a­tions in coun­tries like Italy, Ger­many, France, Bri­tain and Greece lean strongly to­ward lib­eral and far-left pol­i­tics, the young peo­ple of Aus­tria are be­hind the right’s elec­toral suc­cess in their coun­try.

This trend is not only ev­i­dent in that fact that peo­ple in their early 20s and 30s are openly declar­ing their sup­port for Kurz, but also for his more con­tro­ver­sial Vice-Chan­cel­lor and FPÖ party leader, Heinz-Chris­tian Stra­che.

The FPÖ it­self has an­nounced that its youth wing has “11,000 ac­tive mem­bers” and that “count­less more are in­ter­ested."

The right wing in Aus­tria has gen­er­ally had a lot of suc­cess with younger gen­er­a­tions, even in pre­vi­ous elec­tions. More specif­i­cally, the 47-year-old Aus­trian FPÖ pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Nor­bert Hofer, who lost to his op­po­nent from the Greens, cur­rent Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Van der Bellen, by a very small mar­gin in May and April 2016 af­ter two cam­paigns filled with con­tro­versy due to al­leged vot­ing fraud.

The left in Aus­tria has also run other protest cam­paigns; some with un­for­tu­nate names such as “Grand­mas against the Right,” which, to say the least, was not a good strat­egy in terms gal­va­niz­ing young vot­ers. While Bri­tain’s vote to exit the Euro­pean Union and U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vic­tory in 2016 may have been largely at­trib­uted to baby boomers, Aus­tria’s own un­con­ven­tional right rose to power not de­spite of but with the mil­len­nial vote in­cluded.

In Ger­many, for ex­am­ple, the large and sus­tained protests or­ga­nized by an­ti­im­mi­gra­tion cam­paign­ers and the Pa­tri­otic Euro­peans Against the Is­lami­sa­tion of the Oc­ci­dent (PEGIDA) were al­ways met with sim­i­larly sized if not larger counter protests that some­times even re­sulted in vi­o­lence and chaos that had to be con­tained by the au­thor­i­ties.

Sim­i­lar to Trump’s “Amer­ica First” pol­icy, Kurz’s sup­port­ers be­lieve that he also wants to give Aus­tria and its own cit­i­zens pri­or­ity, and that he is not sim­ply a tool of Brus­sels. Half of Europe, young and old, agrees with this sen­ti­ment, while less than half be­lieve that the bloc is han­dling youth unem­ploy­ment, im­mi­gra­tion and the econ­omy ap­pro­pri­ately ac­cord­ing to the EU’s own sta­tis­tics.

Eu­roscep­tic sen­ti­ment has found Aus­tria old friends and new po­lit­i­cal al- lies in the East, per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly with coun­tries that also used to be un­der Hab­s­burg rule un­til 1919, with Hun­gary, Poland, Slo­vakia and the Czech Repub­lic and even Italy.

Vi­enna has also ex­pressed in­ter­est in cre­at­ing closer ties with the East’s re­gional power, the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion, and Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

The left­ist protesters are cer­tainly feel­ing the full weight of de­feat as the coali­tion im­ple­ments its promised poli­cies of change from the main­line.

There are other young sup­port­ers of the cur­rent govern­ment, how­ever, who would have pre­ferred that Kurz had not cre­ated a coali­tion with the FPÖ due to its con­tro­ver­sial his­tory and un­for­giv­ing rhetoric.

The FPÖ has also been un­apolo­getic in its de­nun­ci­a­tion of what it says is the “Is­lamiza­tion of the West.”

How­ever, while it might have left a bad taste in their mouths, they have not re­volted against Stra­che’s ap­point­ment, fac­ing the re­al­ity that with­out his vot­ers, Kurz would have not been chan­cel­lor.

Around 20,000 peo­ple gath­ered in Ball­haus­platz square to protest Chan­cel­lor Se­bas­tian Kurz's govern­ment, Vi­enna, Oct. 5.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Turkey

© PressReader. All rights reserved.