Anti-Immigrant Party Wins Over Some Immigrants

Heinz-Christian Strache wearing a brojanica, a Serbian prayer bracelet

Heinz-Christian Strache wearing a brojanica, a Serbian prayer bracelet (next to his watch). This poster was placed in Vienna's 16th district where many former Yugoslavian immigrants have settled. (Photo: Jelena Kopanja)

VIENNA, Austria – In the campaign leading up to this weekend’s municipal elections, all the major parties were trying to court immigrants, who account for one third of the Austrian capital’s population. Even the far-right Freedom Party (FPOE) – with its predominantly anti-immigrant platform – was able to attract some of these voters.

The majority of the immigrants supporting the Freedom Party are settlers from former Yugoslavia.  Polls suggest that 27 percent of that population–mainly Serbs–back the FPOE. Serbs are the second largest immigrant group in Austria, and the party’s head, Heinz-Christian Strache, has made overtures to them by wearing Serbian religious symbols on posters and by openly opposing Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 2008.  His appeals have found resonance with some members of the community–and with their help, the anti-immigrant Freedom Party was able to win 27.1 percent in Vienna’s elections on Sunday–a huge gain, considering that in 2005 it won only 14.8 percent.

Jelena Kopanja reported on immigrant supporters of the Freedom Party for PRI’s The World:

[audio: jelena_100820105.mp3]

This story aired on 10/8/10.

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