12 Feb 2011

First Netherlands, then Sweden. Now Austria witnesses rise of far right

After the Netherlands and Sweden, another stunning electoral surge for the extreme right in Vienna, a city where the centre-left views governance as its birthright.


"Red Vienna" has been a socialist and then social democratic stronghold since the 1920s. There was never any chance of Michael Häupl, the incumbent and long-serving SPÖ (social democratic) mayor, losing his job. But the customary absolute majority in Vienna's gargantuan mock-gothic town hall is gone, perhaps for a long time. That makes yesterday's vote a bit of a watershed.

Former dental technician Heinz-Christian Strache, the loud extreme right leader who is heir to the late Jörg Haider, was the real winner of the poll. He came second with a staggering 27% to the SPÖ's 44%. That is the social democrats' worst result since 1996, when Haider was in his prime, and the second worst result ever.

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