Defeat of far-right in Austria is no cause for celebration

Mabel Berezin is professor of sociology at Cornell University and author of “Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe” and “Europe Without Borders.” Despite the defeat of the Austrian far-right party, she says the political group remains strong and the European Union remains muted in the face of extremism.


Berezin says:

“There is no cause for celebration in Austria or Europe. First, the Austrian election represented the defeat of the left and center parties that had governed Austria since the end of World War II. Alexander van der Bellen, the winner, is hardly a mainstream politician. To invoke Yeats, the ‘center did not hold.’

“Second, despite the wringing of metaphorical hands in international media and various EU politicians claiming to be shocked at a party with a Nazi past being in serious contention for the presidency, the overall European reaction was somewhat muted. Unlike even just a decade ago, when the EU imposed sanctions on Austria in reaction to extreme right-wing politician Joerg Haider, today right wing parties are seen as a normal feature of the European electoral landscape.

“Third, Austria is a small country and a bit of an outlier, but in many respects this election is a harbinger of things to come. When the French elect a president in 2017, it is highly likely that National Front leader Marine Le Pen will make it into the second round.”

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