Freedom Party of Austria
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.
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. It was a successor to the League of Independents, "a nationalist party representing the interests of the Nazis." 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.
Early in its history, the party was pro-German, and it supported limited government and free enterprise. 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. It briefly participated in a government coalition with the SPÖ between 1983 and 1986.
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. He shifted the party to the conservative right. During his presidency, the FPÖ performed significantly and increasingly better in elections, overtaking the moderately conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) as the second largest party in Carinthia in 1989, for example. In that election, Haider was elected president of the province, and he served until resigning in June 1991. He served again from 1999 to his death in 2008.
The FPÖ received 27 percent of the vote in the 1999 parliamentary elections, becoming the second largest party in Austria, over the ÖVP. In a surprise move, and after unsuccessful negotiations with the SPÖ, the ÖVP formed a coalition government with the Freedom Party. Due to a backlash from the liberal European political establishment, Haider was forced to resign his position as president.
During the governing coalition, tensions arose between Haider and his allies, who were becoming increasingly pragmatic, and the more radical party base. 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).
The BZÖ performed well in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but the FPÖ actually increased its share of the vote in the 2006 elections. After Haider's death, the BZÖ shifted towards the political center, and in 2010, many of its members rejoined the FPÖ. Heinz-Christian Strache became the leader of the FPÖ.
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. 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. The election was eventually postponed until December 4, 2016. Although Hofer lost the election, being defeated by leftist Green Party candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, the party vowed to fight on.
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. While the FPÖ appeared likely to still reach second place in the election, the Social Democrats narrowly outperformed it in the election. However, the election was still a victory in some ways for the FPÖ, as it still increased its share of the vote, and it achieved a large ideological victory in causing the ÖVP to adopt positions on immigration and Islam very similar to the FPÖ.
The FPÖ supports increased border security and reducing immigration. It strongly opposes Islam and its increasing influence in Europe. 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. However, it supports maintaining crucifixes in public schools and courts.
Compared to many other Euroskeptic parties, the FPÖ has a soft and moderate position on the socialist and globalist European Union, only supporting an exit referendum if Turkey joins or if the EU threatens to develop into a country.
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