Austrians and Czechs Move Europe Right

This month, Austria and the Czech Republic held general elections. The results in both countries represent the latest step in right-wing populism’s march through Europe. On October 15, Austrians voted for Sebastian Kurz, a 31-year-old ex-foreign minister and head of the center-right OVP (Austrian People’s Party), to be their next chancellor. After his appointment to the OVP’s top spot last May, Kurz revitalized his stagnant and floundering party, bringing it from a dismal 20 percent support to 31.5 percent in the election. Discussion of migration dominated the campaign. Kurz capitalized on popular concerns about this issue, promising to close the Mediterranean Route, a major path African migrants take to reach Europe, and arguing that “on a European level we need to fight hard to put a stop to immigration.” Interestingly, the OVP’s embrace of nationalism did not prevent the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) from gaining ground; the FPO also climbed 5% to 26%, finishing just behind the second-place Social Democrats.

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