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World Jewish Congress calls Austrian election result ‘distressing,’ urges to keep far-right party out of government

NEW YORK – The World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Sunday voiced serious concerns about the strong showing of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) in Austria’s parliamentary election. WJC President Ronald S. Lauder,  who was the U.S. ambassador to Austria from 1986 to 1987, declared: “It is sad and distressing that such a platform should receive more than a quarter of the vote and become the country’s second party. It is still full of xenophobes and racists and is, mildly put, very ambiguous toward Austria’s Nazi past. My only hope is that they won’t end up in government.”

Lauder added: “What happened today is in many respects worse than Kurt Waldheim’s election as president of Austria 30 years ago. Today’s FPÖ is far beyond acceptable democratic limits.”

The WJC president congratulated the leader of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), current Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, on placing first in the polls. “We have known Mr. Kurz for a long time. He is extremely capable, and I am sure he will be able to form the government and to become an outward-looking leader of this wonderful country,” Lauder said.

However, Lauder strongly warned against including the Freedom Party in any governing coalition. “Like the AfD in Germany, the National Front in France, or Jobbik in Hungary, the FPÖ is an extremist party that panders to racists and anti-Semites and whips up feelings against minorities,” Lauder said. “It is led by a man who in his youth expressed clear sympathies for the Nazis. In its present state, the FPÖ is not, and should not be, a party of government.” 

Lauder also expressed hope that the current coalition of ÖVP and SPÖ could be continued and thanked outgoing Chancellor and SPÖ leader Christian Kern.

“Mr. Kern is a reliable partner. He has shown time and again that he is a friend of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. He took over the chancellorship in difficult times and he served his country with distinction. I very much hope he will remain in the front line of Austrian politics.”

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