Graz The right-wing populist FPÖ opens a new chapter with its new chair Norbert Hofer. The former presidential candidate, who is considered the friendly face of the former Haider party, was overwhelmingly elected at the federal party convention in Graz. More than 98 percent of the more than 800 delegates voted for Hofer, the only candidate for the FPÖ chief post. "Dress warm! We are back with full strength, "said Hofer after his election on Saturday afternoon. Then the party executive allowed himself a beer. The engineer replaced the retired party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.
Former Vice Chancellor Strache triggered the Ibiza affair, which led to the end of the conservative-right-wing populist coalition under Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) at the end of May. Strache, who has no more functions in the FPÖ, saved as expected the trip to the congress in Graz. His wife Philippa Strache also stayed away from the congress. The 32-year-old has a secure list position in the parliamentary election on 29 September. Strache was thanked at the request of Hofer at the congress with a special applause.
Hofer, who had to fight this week with a cold, was in his largely free speech in presentation way bourgeois, the content but right-national. Under the applause of the delegates Hofer polemicized against foreigners of Islamic origin in the Alpine republic. "We have to decisively fight political Islam," said Hofer. "Islam will never be part of our history and our culture."
Hofer warned of a further increase of foreigners in Austria. "It's our country," he said to the applause of his party comrades. On the subject of Islam and foreigners Hofer recently spoke with the Hungarian Prime Minister and Fidesz boss Viktor Orbán. "A true friend of Austria," he said of the Islamophobic head of government he recently visited in Budapest.
With 192,000 people, Germans traditionally form the largest group of foreigners in Austria. The Turks, with 117,000, are the third largest group after the Serbs (121,000). Since the refugee crisis of 2015, the proportion of Syrians has increased to 49,000 and the number of Afghans has increased to 44,000.
Hofer extends his hand briefly
Hofer extended as expected the ÖVP boss and ex-chancellor Sebastian Kurz the hand for a new edition of the conservative right-wing populist government. "I hope that reason decides," said the 48-year-old to the address of Kurz. In his speech, the new FPÖ leader warned the ÖVP against a coalition with the liberal Neos and the Greens. "Then we can lock Austria," said Hofer. The two parties would be theres Foreigner Voting Rights want to introduce. This means voting rights for EU citizens in all elections in Austria.
Hofer is not ready for a re-launch of the coalition with the ÖVP under all conditions. He expressly praised Herbert Kickl as the "best interior minister this republic ever had". The 50-year-old Kickl was unanimously voted Deputy Hofer on Saturday alongside other FPÖ politicians. The rhetorically aggressive Kickl in Graz spoke of a "patriotic twin pack" with Hofer.
Kurz, on the other hand, is not prepared to accept Kickl again as Minister of the Interior in a new coalition with the FPÖ. The ÖVP leader has already made this clear several times during the election campaign. Kickl was heavily controversial because of the scandals in the Interior Ministry and his authoritarian, xenophobic style as Minister of the Interior in Austria.
At the party congress for the election in Austria on September 29, Hofer wanted to give his followers as much courage as possible with a militant speech. "Nobody can stop us, except ourselves," he said. Alluding to the Ibiza affair and Strache, Hofer promised: "Never again will we fail ourselves."
He announced a harder stance in extreme right-wing misconduct of party members: "Do not watch long with heavy carvers, but take the necessary measures." Hofer added: "It is our goal to become the strongest party in Austria."
FPÖ is the third largest party in polls
But the right-wing populists are a long way from that. According to an election survey commissioned by the Austrian private broadcaster Puls 4, the FPÖ currently only receives 19 percent. The former Haider party is after the ÖVP with 35 percent and the SPÖ with 22 percent, only the third strongest force in the country. The Greens therefore reach twelve percent and the Neos nine percent. Hofer announced on Saturday the "yardstick" of 35 percent for his party in the future.
In his keynote speech, the new FPÖ leader demanded an increase in Austria's military spending to one percent of the gross domestic product. Austria is neutral and not a member of NATO. "We will take the ÖVP in the government negotiations at the word," said Hofer.
He practiced indirect criticism of Kurz's inexperience. Hofer referred to his awareness-raising service on the Austrian army. Shortly, however, decided in his own words for the basic military service "not for ideological reasons", but because it was simply shorter than the civil service. The ÖVP boss toured on Saturday through the economically strong Upper Austria. In the federal state, the ÖVP continues to govern together with the FPÖ.
Hofer announced that he wanted to widen the party in terms of content and organization. "I do not want to leave the important topic of environmental protection to the Greens. Environmental protection is homeland security, "said Hofer.
In the future, the FPÖ will concentrate more on cities, given its strength in the Austrian countryside. As a strategic goal, he also called for a stronger presence of right-wing populists in employee representatives and universities. "Viktor Orban showed me a way that could work," said Hofer. But he did not reveal how this plan, which he wants to tackle, will look like.
More: SPÖ leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner calls for a policy change for Austria in the Handelsblatt interview.
(tTTTranslate) Austria (t) FPÖ (t) Heinz-Christian Strache (t) Norbert Hofer (t) Herbert Kickl (t) Party (t) Politician (t) Election (t) Corruption (t) Freedom Party of Austria (t ) Austrian People's Party (t) Islam (t) Neos (t) SPÖ (t) the Greens (t) Nato (t) Fidesz (t) Norbert Hofer (t) Sebastian Kurz (t) Heinz-Christian Strache (t) Herbert Kickl (t) Viktor Orban