The Slovenia Times

Austrian scandal reveals methods of populist parties


"The problem of rightist populist parties is that they are building their campaign on being different from existing elites, on the promise they will operate in a fairer way, be closer to the people," the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences professor said.

Now their main representative in Austria, a member of the government coalition, got caught offering taxpayers' money and discussing investments that would interfere with the media landscape, he summed up.

"Given that the voters of populist parties are distrustful, that they quickly change their representatives, the development could have a substantial impact in Austria," Lovec said.

He noted that the Heinz-Christian Strache footage revealed the dodgy financing methods of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), which are also believed to be used by other parties of this type in Europe.

"At the wider European level there has been talk for some time about the external financing of some of these nationalist, populist parties, about Russian money, various dubious projects," Lovec said.

He added some parties were directly using foreign meddling to strengthen their position and that the Austrian scandal would not remain unnoticed by voters. Thus, this will "impact this group of populist parties in Central and South Europe, especially in Austria, Italy and Hungary".

The overall effect on the EU elections is however questionable, as they are known to have a low turnout and to mostly involve "traditional voters". "I don't think this will encourage a greater turnout by centrist and leftist voters," Lovec argued.

He also does not feel Austria's senior coalition party, the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), whose head Sebastian Kurz has called a snap election, will benefit from the situation, since the perception will be that the ÖVP has been turning a blind eye or participating in the workings of its junior coalition partner.


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