(ETA: There had been very little coverage of far-right FPÖ outside Austria around this time.)
From over here:
…the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) calls for “Real Representatives instead of EU Cheats” and “Our Country in the hands of Christians,” over the slogan “Payback Time”.
In one of the grand basement rooms of Vienna’s enormous town hall, Andreas Moelzer, the Freedom Party’s lead candidate in the elections, speaks to his audience of 150 or so pensioners about the asylum seekers who never go home, scrounging foreigners and an overcentralised, meddling Brussels.
The claim, made by political opponents after his party ran an advertisement opposing Israeli entry to the EU, that the Freedom Party is anti-Semitic is, he says, “nonsense…the discussion [about Israeli accession] was already there”.
But Islam is a different matter. “We are opponents of Islam, we are very strong opponents of Islam.” It is not, he says, a religious dispute, but a cultural issue.
Some in his audience are more extreme. In the question and answer that follows his speech, one speaker talks about how Turkish women are using their fertility as a weapon. Another says the answer is sterilisation. There’s some nervous laughter, but it didn’t seem like a joke. Mr Moelzer makes no comment, offers no rebuke.
The FPOe has bobbed up and down in the polls over the past few years. In 2004 it picked up a measly 6% of the vote. But last year in local elections it soared to 18%. And now it seems to be dominating the debate in the European election, largely because the major parties have so little to say to an electorate unwilling to be enthused by the EU project.
“Unfortunately Austria joined the European Union at the very time that the negative effects of the globalisation process began to hit this country,” says Hans-Peter Martin, independent Austrian MEP and author. That, he says, led people to associate the problems springing from globalisation with the EU.
“And, as far as the EU is concerned,” he goes on, “there have been a lot of expectations when Austria joined, and most of them have not been met. There were unsubstantiated promises that everything would become cheaper, everything would be safeguarded at the same time, and that has not been true.”
The analysts are wary of calling this election. But on one thing nearly everyone, from pro-European pressure groups to parliamentary candidates, agrees. The Austrian people and the EU do not get on at all right now. And that must play to the benefit of the Freedom Party and its candidates.