Mahmud el-Shafey is an Arab Weekly correspondent in London.

  • Growing concern about rise of far-right in Austria, On: Sun, 10 Dec 2017

  • Trump’s far-right retweets draw British ire, On: Sun, 03 Dec 2017

  • A new hijab controversy erupts in the UK, On: Sun, 26 Nov 2017

  • Rare moments of joy at Arabs’ unprecedented World Cup qualifications, On: Sun, 19 Nov 2017

  • Minister’s resignation over secret Israeli meetings raises questions about UK’s Palestinian policy, On: Sun, 12 Nov 2017

  • To ‘celebrate’ or ‘mark’ the Balfour centenary?, On: Sun, 05 Nov 2017

  • More than half of Austrians vote for anti-immigration party, On: Sun, 22 Oct 2017

  • French Muslims ‘concerned and scared’ by draconian anti-terror bill, On: Sun, 08 Oct 2017

  • Muslims face rising suspicion in UK following terrorist attacks, On: Sun, 08 Oct 2017

  • Arab quartet call on Ofcom to look into Al Jazeera’s content, On: Sun, 01 Oct 2017

  • Football qualifiers offer social, political drama in the Middle East, On: Sun, 24 Sep 2017

  • Muslims face rising suspicion in UK following terrorist attacks, On: Sun, 17 Sep 2017

  • Europe’s problem of returning jihadists, On: Sun, 10 Sep 2017

  • Haj, a special experience for Muslims in the West, On: Sun, 27 Aug 2017

  • Spanish attacks exemplify Europe’s terrorist threat, On: Sun, 27 Aug 2017

  • British Muslims not surprised by neo-Nazi threats, On: Sun, 20 Aug 2017

  • After Barcelona, ISIS-inspired threats in Europe continue, On: Sun, 20 Aug 2017

  • Lebanese initiative seeks to bring fiction closer to the world of children , On: Sun, 20 Aug 2017

  • British tourists eyeing return to Tunisia as UK restrictions scrapped, On: Sun, 30 Jul 2017

  • Is the UK doing enough to help child refugees?, On: Sun, 30 Jul 2017

  • Lone-wolf attacks raise concern about new trend in terror, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • After Finsbury Park mosque attack, Britain unites against extremism, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • Election over but UK still faces jihadist threat, On: Sun, 11 Jun 2017

  • UK facing counterterrorism policy questions after London attack, On: Sun, 11 Jun 2017

  • May remains PM but faces tough task ahead, On: Sun, 11 Jun 2017

  • After Manchester bombing, radicalisation questions remain, On: Sun, 04 Jun 2017

  • UK report denounces proliferation of terrorism videos on YouTube, On: Sun, 04 Jun 2017

  • Picture emerges of ‘network’ behind Manchester bomber, On: Sun, 28 May 2017

  • Europe’s 2017 elections affecting lives of Arabs, Muslims, On: Sun, 30 Apr 2017

  • Translating Trump: ‘It’s hell’, On: Sun, 30 Apr 2017

  • What about Balfour? British students no longer studying Palestine-Israel, On: Sun, 23 Apr 2017

  • Scapegoating foreigners marks French and British elections, On: Sun, 23 Apr 2017

  • Hate crimes in the UK on the rise after Brexit vote, On: Sun, 16 Apr 2017

  • Birmingham at the centre of extremism in Britain, On: Sun, 02 Apr 2017

  • London attack raises issue of radicalisation in UK , On: Sun, 26 Mar 2017

  • Far-right trip up in Dutch elections, row with Turkey helped incumbent, On: Sun, 19 Mar 2017

  • Europe’s anti-immigration far right tested in Dutch polls, On: Sun, 12 Mar 2017

  • Anti-Muslim hate has gone mainstream in Europe, On: Sun, 05 Mar 2017

  • Centrist Macron eyes French presidency despite Le Pen lead, On: Sun, 26 Feb 2017

  • Growing concern about rise of far-right in Austria

    Emerging concerns. Head of the People’s Party Sebastian Kurz addresses the media as he arrives for coalition talks in Vienna, on November 28. (Reuters)

    2017/12/10 Issue: 135 Page: 17

    London - As Austria moves closer to forming a government between the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OVP) led by Se­bastian Kurz and the far-right Free­dom Party of Austria (FPO), many across Europe expressed concern about the normalisation of far-right politics.

    Tense elections in Austria in Oc­tober saw the OVP secure victory with 31.5% of the vote, ahead of the ruling Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPO), which had 26.9% of the vote, and the FPO, with 26% of the vote.

    A coalition between the OVP’s 62 MPs and FPO’s 51 MPs would be enough to form a right-wing government. A previous OVP-FPO coalition led Austria from 2000-05 but did not involve FPO figures take senior government positions. The European Union imposed diplomatic sanctions on Austria — the first imposed on a member state — objecting to the presence of the far-right party.

    The FPO was established in Aus­tria in the 1950s by former Nazis. Its first leader, Anton Reinthaller, was a former SS officer and the party has consistently pursued a pro-nation­alist, far-right, anti-immigration policy. The OVP, led by Kurz, who could become the world’s youngest leader, is a Christian conservative party that pursues a centre-right agenda.

    The question analysts are asking is: Will the OVP pull the far-right FPO towards the centre or will we see the centre-right party’s con­servative policies and views co-opted by a surging far-right popu­list message?

    “The test… is who will emerge triumphant in this potential coali­tion: the traditional centre-right or the new populist rebellion. The outcome will serve as a road map for the rest of Europe,” said Peter Rough, a fellow at the Hudson In­stitute in Washington, writing in Foreign Policy.

    Media reports stated that talks were progressing and the two par­ties have found much to agree on regarding issues such as immigra­tion and the economy. Both parties have said they would cut benefits for migrants and introduce a 5-year residency rule to curb welfare for EU nationals.

    The new government would be expected to take a harder line to­wards the European Union. Pro­vincial governors have drawn up a 33-point paper on the country’s re­lationship with the bloc.

    With the FPO negotiating with the OVP as an “equal partner,” there are fears that Kurz could adopt some of the far-right party’s poli­cies as the cost of an alliance. “No one should think we’re going to take it easy on the OVP,” FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache assured supporters.

    The FPO had called for a “minus immigration policy” during the election campaign, saying that Aus­tria should reduce net immigration to less than zero. It called for leg­islation that would make it easier for the government to shut down mosques and Islamic organisations.

    During the election campaign, Kurz called for the state to close kindergartens run by Muslim pro­viders, fearing the spread of “po­litical Islam” to young children in what analysts viewed as an attempt by the centre-right party to win far-right voters.

    This is a dangerous gamble that both centre-right and centre-left parties have lost in the past when seeking to form coalition govern­ments with radical partners.

    “By pushing politics more and more to the right, they will have only one choice left: stay somewhat true to their (own) ideological core and face the rage of the radical­ised electorate or give them what they want and become a radical right party,” warned Cas Mudde, re­searcher at the Centre for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo in the Guardian.

    With coalition talks ongoing, the focus has been on superficial is­sues. During the official opening of Austria’s parliament, the FPO’s 51 MPs did not wear their usual blue cornflower boutonniere — a symbol associated with Nazism — opting instead for edelweiss, a white-and-yellow Alpine flower.

    The blue cornflower had been considered controversial at it was used as a secret sign of support for the banned Nazi party in the 1930s. FPO MPs were strongly criticised for wearing the blue cornflower at previous parliamentary openings.

    The edelweiss stands for “brav­ery and love,” Strache said. Outside parliament, however, protesters carried placards warning: “Fascism wears many colours.”

    Following a controversial far-right “gallows” protest in Poland and an attack on a mosque in War­saw, many said far-right views are becoming increasingly entrenched in Europe.

    A demonstration in Vienna in­volved 3,000 protesters forming a “chain of light” to protest the FPO being included in government but few said they believe such demon­strations will make any difference against a rising tide of right-wing nativism.

    “(The shift to the right) has be­come a European trend… It’s no longer just an Austrian issue and that’s why it is not that controver­sial any longer,” protester Juergen Pucher told Reuters.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

    Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

    Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

    Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

    Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

    Regular Columnists

    Claude Salhani

    Yavuz Baydar


    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


    Ibrahim Ben Bechir

    Hanen Jebali

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor

    Subscription & Advertising:

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    177-179 Hammersmith Road

    London W6 8BS , UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved