How Austria Came To Join Europe’s Far-Right Revolution

An already-historic presidential election shows the country's shifting cultural mindset

"Hooray for nationalism!" — REUTERS
Apr 25, 2016 at 6:47 PM ET

A Glock-wielding, anti-immigrant politician, the head of Austria’s supremely nationalist, far-right Freedom Party, is currently leading the presidential election—as the nation’s two major parties fall out of favor.

In the first round of the country’s presidential election, Norbert Hofer took nearly 40 percent of the vote, followed by a member of the country’s Green Party, usurping representatives from the historically governing Social Democrats Paty and the People’s party. For the past 70 years, presidents have hailed exclusively from these two centrist parties with views vastly different than Hofer.

“Islam is not part of Austria,” Hofer reportedly stated while campaigning recently. “If we keep our [refugee asylum] policyk in 2050 half of those under age 12 across the country will be Muslims. I do not want Austria to be a country with a Muslim majority.”

The gains for Hofer are part of a growing trend spreading across Europe, as far-right, nationalist politicians come to prominence in the face of economic turmoil punctuated with unemployment, acts of terror, and social clashes brought on by the current refugee crisis in countries like France, Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom. (Not to mention what’s happening over on this side of the pond with the unexpected rise of Donald “Muslim Ban” Trump, whose very name has become a racial slur.)

But how exactly did a man espousing such radical viewpoints rise to prominence on the ticket of a party with a history tied to Nazism? Years of unrest and rising tensions.