Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs

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Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Freedom Party of Austria - FPÖ) is a right-wing national conservative political party in Austria, founded in 1949 under the name Verband der Unabhängigen (Federation of Independents - VdU), and took its current name in 1956. Its current motto is 'Austria first'. [1]

The BBC's Bethany Bell describes the party as 'far-right' and notes that it has 'campaigned on an anti-immigration and "anti-Islamisation" platform for years.' She quotes political analyst Thomas Hofer who argues that 'anti-Islamisation' has been a pillar of the Freedom Party for seven to eight years, especially in Vienna, and grew out of its more generalised anti-migrant stance.[2]

Writing in February 2015, Bell notes that at the last elections, FPÖ gained 20 per cent of the vote and a recent opinion poll put it at 28 per cent, ahead of both parties in the governing coalition of the Social Democrats and the conservative People's Party (OeVP).

Responses to accusations

In a July 2016 interview, MEP Barbara Kappel from the FPÖ claimed: 'we are not a far-right party; we are a center-right party', adding that the reason why they were portrayed in that way was because:

'In Austria we have a media system that is very strongly financed by the government. It is good to keep the major opposition party down by [making such statements]. I am really working on that to correct that. All of my colleagues are doing the same thing.'

The candidate for election Norbert Hofer also responded to being labeled 'a wolf in sheep's clothing,' 'the Donald Trump of Europe,' and 'the friendly face of the far-right' by saying he was 'merely a patriot, not a neo-fascist'.[3]

Opinion around them seems to have considerably changed: 'most people just don’t associate the Freedom Party with the far right anymore,' says Günter Haunlieb, a senior director at Gallup International, a leading pollster in Vienna. 'The Nazi label doesn’t stick.' [4] Norbert Hofer won 1,000 euros in damages in early October 2016 from a man who had posted a fake image of him with a Hitler mustache on social media. [5]

Influence on mainstream politics

Four months after taking over a new coalition government scared of the FPÖ Christian Kern, Austria's new chancellor, took a populist turn, adopting positions remarkably close to those of his anti-immigration rivals. Political scientist Anton Pelinka said of him: 'he is trying to cast out the FPO demon by using Beelzebub, to put it biblically, [...] he is trying to defeat the FPO by taking over its policies'.

For instance, Kern unexpectedly suggested in August 2016 that the EU should break off accession talks with Turkey. He also surveyed his Social Democratic Party's (SPO) members on an EU trade deal with Canada, which was largely rejected and which he now opposes. FPO presidential candidate Norbert Hofer has long called for a referendum on any U.S. trade deal and now says the same about the Canadian pact. [6]

2016 Elections

May's presidential election saw the independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen very narrowly grab victory over the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer. Some media had been celebrating it as a victory against the far-right and an escape from neo-fascism, but Austria's constitutional court overturned the result, scheduling the next vote for October 2nd, before pushing the vote back to December 'because of problems with envelope glue'. [7] [4] [3] as the Freedom Party contest the outcome. Indeed, the FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache, claimed during a press conference that reports of irregularities in 94 voting districts had 'obliged' his party to contest the result. [8]

Opinion polls suggest that Hofer is likely to win the revote, scheduled for December. [4]

Easternmost areas closer to the borders voted for the far-right leader, while support for the Van der Bellen came from the north of the country and the two westernmost provinces of Vorarlberg (58.6 per cent) and Tyrol. [1]

Associated court cases

The Freedom Party announced in early October it would be suing one of the judges who ordered a re-run of the country's presidential election, Johannes Schnizer, for saying the party started preparing its challenge against the result before the vote took place. [9]



One of the leading figures in Austria’s Freedom Party is Russian-speaking Johann Gudenus, who frequently meets with top Russian and Belarusian politicians and businessmen in order to establish better relations with the Kremlin.

At a press conference in January 2016, Gudenus praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for acting in the interests of Russia’s people and called for European leaders to act the way Putin does. They should 'act as their peoples expect them to act and not in the Americans’ or NATO’s interests,' Gudenus said. He added: if the EU on the one hand implements sanctions against Russia, a European country, and on the other hand negotiates membership with a non-EU country, Turkey, such an EU is taking a dangerous route.'

He insisted that the U.S. 'dictated' to Europe when economic sanctions were implemented against Russia after it annexed Crimea, something which he had already claimed in 2014. He was invited to Moscow by State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin in June of that year, where he blamed the EU, 'NATO’s hostage,' for Ukraine’s crisis and praised the Kremlin’s policy. [10]


On Israel

The new party leader Heinz-Christian Strache changed the party's image in 2005 by officially starting to support the state of Israel became, and putting in place new leaders that renounced the aversion that their predecessors had expressed toward Jews. [4]

On Islam, Muslims and migrants

'Political Islam,' Strache told TIME in an interview in his office in Vienna, 'is the fascism of today, and that is what we have to fight.' [4]






  1. 1.0 1.1 Zoie O'Brien Could Norbert Hofer's far-right party win power? Party gains MORE support in Austria, Express, 12 August 2016. Accessed 11 October 2016.
  2. Bethany Bell, Pegida in Austrian 'anti-Islamisation' drive, BBC News, 2 February 2015
  3. 3.0 3.1 ‘We’re center right, not far right’ – Austria’s Freedom party, RT News, 1 July 2016. Accessed 11 october 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Simon Shuster European Politics Are Swinging to the Right, TIME, 22 September 2016. Accessed 11 October 2016
  5. Austrian far-right pol wins damages over Hitler mustache, The Times of Israel, 8 October 2016. Accessed 11 October 2016.
  6. Francois Murphy, Austrian chancellor gambles on far right's populist tactics, Reuters, 2 October 2016. Accessed 11 October 2016.
  7. Will Worley, Austrian presidential elections 'to be postponed because of problems with envelope glue', The independent, 12 September 2016. Accessed 11 October 2016.
  8. Philip Oltermann, Austrian far-right party challenges presidential election results, The Guardian, 8 June 2016. Accessed 11 october 2016.
  9. Austrian far right to sue judge for saying vote challenge was planned, Business Insider, October 5, 2016. Accessed October 11 2016.
  10. Anna Nemtsova, How Vladimir Putin Feeds Europe’s Rabid Right, The Daily Beast, 10 April 2016. Accessed 11 October 2016.