Sunday, July 3, 2016

It’s Austria Again! (July 1)

What is it with Austria?  Why does it appear so difficult for this small nation in the heart of Europe to once and for all get rid of its Nazi heritage? Although every European country has a far-right party, Alternative for Germany, also known as the Freedom Party was founded by former Nazis and nationalists shortly after World War II, in which former Austrian citizen Adolf Hitler devastated Europe. 

In 1986, Austria elected Kurt Waldheim, a former United Nations secretary general who had served in the Wehrmacht during World War II as president, while the party’s leader, Georg Haider made Europeans uncomfortable until being killed in an accident in 2008.

Today, Austria’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Freedom Party’s claim of ‘irregularities’ in the vote count that narrowly gave the presidency to the Green Party candidate. On the surface there is nothing reprehensible about demanding a recount in a very close race.  What is disturbing here is that the ‘irregularities’ recognized by Austria’s highest court consisted of either opening mail-in ballots before the official time, or starting the count before all election officials were present, neither of which could materially influence the results.

The decision to hold a new election in the fall leaves Austria with a represen-tative troika instead of a regular government, while details of Britain’s exit from the EU are being negotiated, and the US closes in on its own election date.  

The Austrian presidency has traditionally been seen as largely ceremonial. but Norbert Hofer plans to change that, and it’s anybody’s guess what that means. His strongest plank is virulent opposition to Muslim refugees, while his counterpart in France, Marine Le Pen, prepares to enter the 2017 Presidential race and the US could find itself with Donald Trump as president.

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