Caught out in a scandal, the Freedom party is playing the victim and dangerously undermining trust in democracy It is hard to shock the population of a country where racism and corruption have become so normalised that they are considered business as usual. Yet, the latest revelations of Austria’s “Ibiza scandal” are on an entirely new scale, setting in motion a complete meltdown of Austria’s coalition government. Leaked video recordings show the now-resigned vice chancellor HC Strache and parliamentary whip Johann Gudenus offer Austrian contracts and assets, including the country’s most widely read media outlet, Kronen Zeitung, to Russian oligarchs in return for campaign support. It marks the climax in a series of political scandals of Austria’s far-right Freedom party (FPÖ). Just the past year saw the far-right deputy mayor of Braunau am Inn (Hitler’s birthplace) publish a poem comparing migrants to rats, high-ranking FPÖ politicians cultivate connections with neo-Nazi fraternities and the extreme-right identitarian movement, and the FPÖ-led interior ministry attempt to bring the national intelligence agency (BVT) under its control. The Austrian far right’s quest to take over influential media outlets, even if that involves selling them to Russian investors, reflects a form of political campaigning that knows few legal and even fewer moral boundaries. Strache’s role model is Hungary, where the far-right government under Viktor Orbán is said to control 75% to 80% of the media market. The ex-vice chancellor is recorded saying: “We want to build a media landscape that is similar to Orbán’s.”
Austria’s crisis is a lesson for Europe: far-right parties are unfit to govern
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