Austrian Election Results Make Nationalism Youthful and Normal

The Overton Window, a paradigm of acceptable political discourse, is shifting radically in Europe as “right-wing topics like measures against Islamic terrorism, border protection and migration became primary agenda items in European governments.”

By Taylor Rose l October 23, 2017

In an ever-changing European political landscape, Sebastian Kurz, 31, of the People’s Party contends that state sovereignty within the European Union, is possible

Nationalism winning is the new normal. It is now so normal that even the European center-right is coming to terms with the new reality that it either must change or die. The results of the snap-elections for the Austrian parliament a week ago Sunday prove this true.

After the 2013 parliamentary elections, the center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) was the largest party in parliament and the hard-right nationalist Freedom Party (FPÖ) was coming close to overtaking the dried up, center-right People’s Party (ÖVP). Now, after the snap-elections, the Austrian Left is in retreat with the Social Democrats suffering not one seat gained and the Greens are out of parliament. Now being young, nationalistic, right-wing and in-charge is the new normal in Austria.

Sebastian Kurz, 31, who presents himself as trendy, approachable and, yet, edgy on his visions for Austria, is now set to become the youngest Austrian chancellor after the ÖVP took first place with 31.5% of the vote, and will likely form a coalition with Heinz-Christian Strach’s nationalist FPÖ. Kurz, from Vienna, appeared suddenly on the scene as the youngest Austrian foreign minister at the age of 27, and since has helped purge the ÖVP of its more moderate ideas, embracing many nationalist positions in order to help the ÖVP ride the waves of an ever changing European political landscape.

Dr. Andreas Karlsboeck, an FPÖ member of parliament representing Vienna south, spoke with SFPPR News & Analysis to clarify this changing political landscape in Austria.

Dr. Karlsboeck says this shift to the right in Austria is “indeed” an indicator that Austria has shifted to the political right, as a “logical reaction towards unpleasant developments such as illegal immigration, Islamic terrorism, and the abuse of social systems in the European countries.”

Though he is hesitant to say if these results mean the end of the Austrian left, Dr. Karlsboeck is convinced that the Austrian and much of the European left is “currently undergoing an identity crisis and losing political influence” that will likely keep them in the political fringes for sometime, especially as millennial voters shift right.

Thus, enter Sebastian Kurz and the new face of the ÖVP that looks a lot like the face of the FPÖ.

Dr. Karlsboeck, like many European nationalists are hesitant to say if Kurz is in-fact a true nationalist because many are simply “just not sure” of his true intentions. However, “it is quite probable that FPÖ will get responsibility in a new Austrian government.” Which is a positive indicator that the leader of a center-right party would even consider this an option. However, Dr. Karlsboeck warns, “it depends on the results of the upcoming negotiations with Kurz’ and the Social Democrats. Only if the FPÖ’s primary agenda items will be accepted, Mr. Strache will be ready to join a new coalition.”

Karlsboeck explicitly outlined those agenda items as “a restrictive position in questions of migration, asylum, security and protection of Austrian borders as long as EU is not capable or ready to protect its external borders; a fair balanced economy and more direct democracy in form of binding referendums.”

Surprising to many, however, is the issue of Austrian membership in the European Union. When asked if this will lead to a referendum on Austrian membership, Dr. Karlsboeck explicitly said there will be “definitely no” referendum on this issue, as “the FPÖ stands for a common Europe of sovereign states…yet, fewer centrally made decisions. The FPÖ will support all positive and constructive efforts to reform the EU from inside.”

Though some may be wary about the prospects of the FPÖ as junior members of a coalition given the disastrous political fallout in 2000 when the ÖVP and FPÖ became coalition partners then, Dr. Karlsboeck remains optimistic that this will not repeat itself. The Overton Window, a paradigm of acceptable political discourse, is shifting radically in Europe as “right-wing topics like measures against Islamic terrorism, border protection and migration became primary agenda items in European governments.”

Taylor Rose is a graduate of Liberty University with a B.A. in International Relations from the Helms School of Government. Fluent in English and German he has worked and studied throughout Europe specializing in American and European politics. He is a prolific writer and author of the book Return of the Right an analysis on the revival of Conservatism in the United States and Europe. He is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the conservative on-line journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.