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Austria’s Rightward Swing Marks Accelerated Political Shifts In Europe

On Sunday, Austria became the latest European country to hold national elections amid a nationalist rival and a migrant crisis that is heading into its third year. The 31-year-old leader of the conservative People’s Party and the current foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, will be Austria’s next chancellor.

Kurz’s party came in first place with 31.4 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats, who currently rule, had 26.7 percent, while the far-right Freedom Party surpassed the incumbent party with 27.4 percent of the vote. Kurz’s win marks the latest sign of Europe’s slow march away from the European Union and toward a renaissance, for better or for worse, of national sovereignty.

The major issues Kurz ran on throughout his campaign had to do, not surprisingly, with immigration. He wants to beef up the country’s borders and has proposed reducing government benefits to new migrants to Austria and making them available only after an individual has been in the country for five years, to lessen incentives to come to the country. Kurz also promised to lower the country’s current cap on the number of asylees it can take in (the young foreign minister introduced those caps last year, pushing back against the European Union’s open-door policy for migrants).

To Win, Kurtz Had to Move Right

Kurz has long been an European Union opponent unafraid to push back against what he sees as the dangers of Islam in Europe. As foreign minister, he called in 2015 for tighter control over the EU’s external borders. He also proposed a law that would limit the funding of mosques and imam’s salaries by foreign entities—something that could go a long way toward tamping down on radicalization of Muslim European youths—and regulate the version of the Quran that’s used in Austria. He was also instrumental in the “burqa ban” that recently went into effect and for helping close down the Balkan migrant route last year.

Read more at The Federalist. 


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