Sunday, March 22, 2009

It looks like a tough fight for Vienna Mayor

Last week I noticed the sign "Out with Häupl" appearing at tram stops and subway stations for Vienna's 2010 Mayoral election. The incumbent, Michael Häupl, is from the Social Democrat party. The poster is from HC (Heinz Christian) Strache, a candidate from the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe), one of Austria's far right political parties.

The poster comes right out and says Strache wants: "... jobs for citizens (only), to stop the Islamization and immigration" and blames Häupl for "record criminality, an avalanche of price increases, a wave of unemployment, massive immigration and mosques and minarets." It reminds me of some of the rhetoric behind the scenes in US political campaigns, but I can't remember ever seeing such blatant racism and immigrant bashing on campaign posters in the USA.

While Vienna has had a long history of left leaning governments, many people I talk with are worried. A couple weeks ago Austria held elections in two states (Bundeslander): Carinthia and Salzburg. In both elections the left-leaning parties lost ground and the far right gained. Eva Menasse wrote an interesting analysis of Carinthia's vote: Haider in their hearts that was published in Die Zeit on March 5, 2009. (Haider was formerly a member of the FPOe before starting the (also) far right BZOe party. He was Governor of Carninthia before suffering a fatal car accident in 2008.)

Anyway, given the economic crisis and growing support for right wing parties it looks like a difficult and ugly campaign for Vienna.

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