A large demonstration took place on Saturday in Vienna against the coalition between the centre-right and the extreme-right that has been in power for almost a month in Austria.
Under the slogan “New Year’s welcome committee,” 20,000 demonstrators, according to the police, formed a long procession in the city centre, chanting “Nazis out.”
Led by the young conservative Sebastian Kurz, the 31-year-old winner of last October’s elections, the new Austrian government formed in mid-December includes six far-right ministers in key positions, including Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the Freedom of Party of Austria (FPÖ) and Vice-Chancellor. The FPO was founded by a former SS officer but has tried to project itself as a mainstream right-wing party in recent years.
Last week the FPO interior minister Herbert Kickl drew sharp criticism for saying that that the government should “concentrate” immigrants, using language reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps.
Saturday’s demonstration, which was organised by left-wing groups and the anti-racism movement, was the first of this magnitude since the new government took office, and brought together an crowd of all ages, including many families.
Many slogans referred to Austria’s history, 80 years after the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in March 1938 and the establishment of a fascist authoritarian regime.
“What I fear most is that this kind of government is becoming commonplace, become the new standard,” Christa, a 55-year-old protester told French media, while Tobias Grettica, a German of 47 years, said to be “worried to see nationalism progress everywhere, not only in Austria”.
This is the second coalition formed between conservative (ÖVP) and FPÖ in Austria, after a previous turn in government in the early 2000s. The alliance of the two parties had at the time aroused international disapproval and resulted in European sanctions.
The new majority garnered nearly 60% of the vote in the October legislative elections, after ten years of centrist coalition between the right and social democrats.