Destinations Magazine

Vexed in Vienna

By Stizzard
Vexed in Vienna

WHAT is Austria’s problem? In Vienna the streets are clean, the trams rattle reliably past and the bow-tied waiters still dispense their Sachertorte with supercilious smirks. The country is well-run, prosperous and secure. There are no neglected banlieues. Even the refugees who poured through last year have stopped coming. And yet Austria is on the verge of electing a far-right president from a party with an unsavoury past.

Last month, for the first time in post-war Austria, voters in the first round of a presidential election spurned the candidates backed by the centre-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) and centre-right People’s Party (ÖVP), which run the country in a “grand coalition”. In Sunday’s run-off they must choose between Norbert Hofer, the fresh-faced candidate of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), or Alexander Van der Bellen, an aged professor backed by the Greens. Mr Hofer is the favourite, and the rest of Europe is alarmed.

The FPÖ operates from a familiar populist-right playbook. The suits have grown sharper while the outright racism has been cloaked. The hostility has shifted…

The Economist: Europe

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