JLH has translated an article about the current political situation in Austria, and includes a lengthy introduction that draws parallels with other countries.
International Echoes of the Deep State
There is a certain similarity of political dirty tricks and elitist arrogance around the world. Recently, I translated an article on Erdogan’s refusal to accept that his party had lost the mayoral race in Istanbul. His motivation, like that of our own Deep State, was the money and power that he and his cronies would lose. And the blind vanity of the man who yearns to create the new Islamic caliphate pretending that the election was a fraud also sounds familiar.
On a similar note, the following refers to the new government in Austria — a government led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, of the Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP — Austrian People’s Party) with junior partner Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and his Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ — Freedom Party of Austria). The new government has spurred an economic improvement in the country, tightened restrictions on immigration, and has recently instituted a new policy in allocation of pubic housing described by Zuerst as “a commendable policy of Austrians First.” That is, indigenous citizens and truly integrated other residents will have first call, thus emphasizing the Austrian culture and simultaneously disadvantaging new and hostile or disaffected arrivals.
Kurz’s formation of a government in partnership with the strongly anti-immigration FPÖ was a problem for many on the left and middle-left, because the party and Strache were associated in many minds with neo-Nazism. Strache had struggled to ameliorate this judgment by visiting Israel and making pro-Israel gestures and comments. But the suspicion of anti-Semitism lingered. Kurz was surely aware of these things, but chose to ally himself with the one party that would bolster his conservative move toward a stricter immigration policy.
Kurz’s accession to power in the ÖVP and then to the chancellorship was not received with universal equanimity in his own party. Enter former party head and former Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner — nicknamed “Django” after the title character of Sergio Corbucci’s spaghetti western, the original Django, who relentlessly settles accounts with his enemies. Quentin Tarantino was the latest of a series of re-creators of Corbucci’s film.
Mitterlehner’s book seems to me to portray the author as the ultimate elitist snowflake, bemoaning the end of the previous coalition’s ruinous, bleeding-heart policy of immigration for all. Some people doubt Kurz’s sincerity. They may be right, but so what?
Upon the publication of his book, Mitterlehner’s nickname was an instant identification of what the press and public perceived — a man driven to ruthlessly avenge personal injustice. An article in the online Sputnik News flamboyantly titled “Django Unchained” — Sebastian Kurz’s Predecessor Dishes is paralleled by the following article in Wiener Zeitung:
Mitterlehner Settles Accounts With The Turquoise
April 4, 2019
Two years after his resignation, former ÖVP leader and vice chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner takes up his pen: In the book Standpoint — Showing Your Colors in Life and Politics he reviews the months-long power struggle for the leadership of the ÖVP and the takeover by Sebastian Kurz, presently the chancellor, and in the process settles accounts with the “Turquoise.” There is talk of intrigue, bullying and thirst for power.
Definitely the most fascinating chapter is the one on “takeover”: Mitterlehner says that his resignation in May 2017 did not take the party by surprise. To the contrary, Kurz and his confidantes had been making meticulous preparations to take over the party for more than a year. Mitterlehner describes how he had entered into an agreement with the rising political star to “cooperate until 2018”, until the regularly scheduled election. Kurz did not keep the bargain. “Of course, it did not escape my attention that, while I had my hands full with day-to-day political tasks, the foreign minister’s poll values were shooting into the stratosphere.”
Bullying and Intrigues in the ÖVP
With Christian Kern’s appearance as the new chancellor after the resignation of SPÖ chief Werner Faymann, Mitterlehner claims, Kurz confirmed his intention to end the coalition. “The grand design Kurz executed in 2017 was already formed in his mind by May 2016. It was intended that I terminate the coalition for him, and be left holding the bag, so he could enter the new elections unmarked.” It had come to a split when Mitterlehner refused. Mitterlehner speaks of bullying and intrigues and “partly made-up” stories about him in the tabloids. Behind his back, Kurz had already presented his program and had “donor rallies.” Mitterlehner had hoped to accomplish something with Kern, but his efforts were “smothered in the cradle.” “And this was not a competition of better ideas, but a battle for power — who would preside over persons and resources.”
According to Mitterlehner, when Kern introduced his Plan A in 2017, he offered Kurz the lead candidacy in the coming elections, but Kurz was noncommittal. Mitterlehner offers an insight into the negotiations with the SPÖ and the tug-of-war with Kurz and his supporters, like Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Sobotka: “ Things escalated drastically, as if there had never been a plan to re-launch the government program. Kern and I were intended to enjoy no more successes.”
Destroyer and Bomb-Maker
The beginning of the end, says Mitterlehner, was the letter to the EU concerning the indexing of family subsidies, of which Kern had not been informed. Since Sobotka did not want the role of the one who blew up the coalition, he slipped into the “role of critic and destroyer of Kern.” His criticism was the weapon of choice. “They intended to carry the battle into the existing coalition which still proclaims its highest duty to be avoiding argument.”
There were, in effect, two ÖVP heads at this time, says Mitterlehner. He was the official one and Kurz was the secret one, holding more or less parallel discussions. Mitterlehner was, so to speak, the mayor of a Potemkin village.
“So I braced myself,” says Mitterlehner of his resignation on May 10, 2017. Kurz took over, called new elections and, since the end of 2017, has been governing with the FPÖ.
“Making the Rightists Socially Acceptable”
Mitterlehner is evidently not fond of this Turquoise-Blue coalition. He writes, “Sebastian Kurz has, at any rate, made the Rightists socially acceptable.” Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl interprets: “Again and again the impression that politics precedes law, and even international legal principles.” But the government also has some peculiar notions, says Mitterlehner, indicating the planned security detention, i.e., presumptively dangerous asylum seekers to be taken into preemptive security custody. Refugees are universally regarded as hostile: “Restrictive refugee policy has become the basic operating procedure of this government.”
He sees “the danger that policy based predominantly on mood and the present moment may brush aside valid standards. “Poll results must not be the only standard for policy,” says the former party leader. Mitterlehner also critiques the too-close relationship of politics and media and analyzes as well the economic and refugee crises.
[Mitterlehner’s last paragraph deals first with his personal life, including his acquisition as a student of the nickname Django, and its favored use by ÖVP “marketing.” The conclusion]… “As a politician, in order to act consistently as Django, I had to shoot from the hip — i.e., call for new elections, expel this person and that one. I doubt that that is the image of a political Rambo.”
|1.||As the two major parties in the US are identified by color as “blue” or “red,” a somewhat more complicated color code applies in some multi-party European countries.
In Austria, the rainbow of political IDs is red, black, blue, pink, white and green. Red, once seen as the color of rulers, is now the identifier for the SPÖ (Socialist Party of Austria); black — originally associated with the black vestments of Catholic clergy — has been the color of the ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party). Because of lingering memories of the Blue-Black coalition of the early 2000s (the mere election of which occasioned almost universal condemnation by Europe and the US), Kurz has moved to change his party’s colors to Turquoise to form a more neutral color scheme with the traditional Blue of the FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria).