Freedom Party of Austria

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Freedom Party of Austria
Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache
Parliamentary leader
Founded 1955
Political ideology Conservatism
Political position
International affiliation
Color(s) blue
Results of the first round of the 2016 Austrian presidential election, where the FPÖ (blue) received its best election result at the time (although it was surpassed in the two runoff elections).

The Freedom Party of Austria (German: Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs; FPÖ) is a conservative, Euroskeptic, and right-wing party in Austria. Along with other right-wing parties in Europe, is has seen large success in the early 21st Century.

According to political analyst Thomas Hofer, the FPÖ's politically incorrect style and policies inspired many other right-wing populist and nationalist parties across Europe and helped make those beliefs mainstream in the continent.[1]



The FPÖ was founded in 1956 by Anton Reinthaller, who had served in the post-Anschluss government in Austria that accordingly collaborated with the Nazis.[2] It was a successor to the League of Independents, "a nationalist party representing the interests of the Nazis."[3] Despite this, and despite the fact that it attracted former Nazis, the FPÖ was not an extremist or neo-Nazi party, and it had liberal and nationalist factions.[2]

Early in its history, the party was pro-German, and it supported limited government and free enterprise.[2] Between the 1950s and 1980s, the liberal faction of the party strengthened, and in 1979 it became a member of Liberal International and attempted to form an alliance with the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) during the 1970s.[2] It briefly participated in a government coalition with the SPÖ between 1983 and 1986.[2]

Party under Haider

In 1986, Jörg Haider, a 36-year-old member of the nationalist faction of the party and leader of the Carinthian FPÖ chapter, was elected party president.[2] He shifted the party to the conservative right. During his presidency, the FPÖ performed significantly and increasingly better in elections,[4] overtaking the moderately conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) as the second largest party in Carinthia in 1989, for example.[2] In that election, Haider was elected president of the province, and he served until resigning in June 1991.[2] He served again from 1999 to his death in 2008.[4]

The FPÖ received 27 percent of the vote in the 1999 parliamentary elections, becoming the second largest party in Austria, over the ÖVP.[4] In a surprise move, and after unsuccessful negotiations with the SPÖ, the ÖVP formed a coalition government with the Freedom Party.[4] Due to a backlash from the liberal European political establishment, Haider was forced to resign his position as president.[4]

Post-split: 2005–2016

Norbert Hofer (center)

During the governing coalition, tensions arose between Haider and his allies, who were becoming increasingly pragmatic, and the more radical party base.[5] The tensions cumulated in 2005, when Haider, most FPÖ MPs, and all cabinet members left the party to form the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ).[3][5]

The BZÖ performed well in the 2006 and 2008 elections,[3] but the FPÖ actually increased its share of the vote in the 2006 elections.[5] After Haider's death, the BZÖ shifted towards the political center, and in 2010, many of its members rejoined the FPÖ.[3] Heinz-Christian Strache became the leader of the FPÖ.[5]

In the first round of the 2016 Austrian presidential election, FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer received 35.1 percent of the vote, which at the time was the party's best result in a national election in history.[6] Although Hofer lost the run-off election by less than one percentage point, Austria’s Constitutional Court ordered a re-run of the election due to irregularities in mail-in ballots.[7] The election was eventually postponed until December 4, 2016.[8][9] Although Hofer lost the election, being defeated by leftist Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, the party vowed to fight on.[10]

2017 elections and Austrian government

Going into the 2017 legislative elections, the FPÖ was at first place according to opinion polls until Sebastian Kurz became the leader of the ÖVP and overtook the party.[11] While the FPÖ appeared likely to still reach second place in the election,[12] the Social Democrats narrowly outperformed it in the election.[13] However, the election was still a victory in some ways for the FPÖ, as it still increased its share of the vote,[14] and it achieved a large ideological victory in causing the ÖVP to adopt positions on immigration and Islam very similar to the FPÖ.[11][14][15][16][17] The FPÖ formed a coalition deal with the ÖVP and was able to take several key government agencies, including the interior and defense ministries.[18]

In January 2018, the FPÖ-controlled interior ministry created a new border force to "ensure orderly border management."[19]

Political positions

Heinz-Christian Strache

The FPÖ is a conservative, right-wing party. Although the mainstream media has characterized the party as "far-right," the party characterizes itself as "center-right."[20]

The FPÖ supports increased border security and reducing immigration.[3] It strongly opposes Islam and its increasing influence in Europe.[3] It supports banning the Burqa, which although might seem like a beneficial idea, could compromise religious liberty if passed and open a door for increased restrictions against Christianity.[3] However, it supports maintaining crucifixes in public schools and courts.

The FPÖ leans pro-Life and opposes same-sex "marriage", euthanasia, and gun control. However, is also opposes capital punishment.

Compared to many other Euroskeptic parties, the FPÖ has a soft and moderate position on the socialist and globalist European Union,[20] only supporting an exit referendum if Turkey joins[3] or if the EU threatens to develop into a country.

In June 2017, FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache called for moving the Austrian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.[21] Despite accusations of the party being "anti-Semitic", it holds strong pro-Israel positions,[22] something that Sebastian Kurz of the ÖVP also affirmed.[23]

See also


  1. Bell, Bethany (December 23, 2017). Austrian far-right triumph inspires nationalists in EU. BBC News. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 The Freedom Party of Austria. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Smith, Reiss (September 22, 2016). What is the Freedom Party of Austria? The anti-EU party that could win Austria's election. Daily Express. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Rauch, Robert. Jörg Haider. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Freedom Party of Austria. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  6. Troianovski, Anton (April 25, 2016). European Right Gets Boost From Austrian Freedom Party Victory. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  7. Troianovski, Anton (June 1, 2016). Austrian Court Orders Rerun of Presidential Vote. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  8. Connolly, Kate (September 12, 2016). Austrian presidential election postponed due to faulty glue. The Guardian. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  9. Tomlinson, Chris (September 13, 2016). Freedom Party Calls Austrian Election Delay An ‘Embarrassment’. Breitbart. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  10. Oliphant, Roland; Cseko, Balazs (December 4, 2016). Austrian far-right defiant as Freedom Party claims 'pole position' for general election: 'Our time comes'. The Telegraph. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Knolle, Kirsti; Nasralla, Shadia (September 5, 2017). Austria's far-right party accuses conservatives of stealing campaign ideas. Reuters. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  12. Atkins, Ralph (October 8, 2017). Austria’s populist Freedom party gears up for poll. Financial Times. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  13. Austrian Social Democrats Come Second in Tight Election Race. Sputnik. October 20, 2017. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Barkin, Noah (October 15, 2017). What Austria's election says about Europe's political landscape. Reuters. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  15. Murphy, Francois (July 16, 2017). Win or lose, Austrian far right's views have entered government. Reuters. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  16. Witte, Griff (October 13, 2017). Win or lose in Austrian vote, the far right triumphs as rivals back policies once deemed fringe. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  17. Grabbe, Heather (October 18, 2017). Why Europe isn’t worried by Austria’s right tilt (but should be). Politico. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  18. Multiple references: For information on the individual cabinet members:
  19. Tomlinson, Chris (January 22, 2018). Austria Announces ‘Border Protection Unit’ to Manage Migration. Breitbart News. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  20. 20.0 20.1 ‘We’re center right, not far right’ – Austria’s Freedom party. RT. July 1, 2016. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  21. Tomlinson, Chris (June 23, 2017). Populist Party Leader: Move the Austrian Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Breitbart News. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  22. Ahren, Raphael (October 11, 2017). In Austria, rise of pro-Israel, far-right faction forces Israel into corner. The Times of Israel. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  23. Tomlinson, Chris (January 19, 2018). Austrian Chancellor: Right-Wing Populists Have Allowed This Government to be Pro-Israel. Breitbart News. Retrieved January 19, 2018.

External links