There is a dangerous precedence being set across Europe as Austria become the only western European country with a documented fascist political party to enter government. The Austrian president, Alexander Van der Bellen, has approved a coalition between the People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Freedom Party (FPÖ) after the collapsed of the previous coalition between the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party collapsed in May.

Sebastian Kurz has become the county’s new Chancellor with Heinz-Christian Strache as vice-chancellor. Strache’s party will control foreign, interior and defence ministries.

This move creates a dangerous presence of the far-right that needs to not be repeated across Europe.

Who are the Freedom Party?

Founded in 1956, the party’s first leader was former Nazi minister of agriculture and SS officer, Anton Reinthaller. In their early years they were the party for pan-Germanists and national liberals, founded from the Federation of Independents (VdU), who were an alternative to the two main Austrian parties, the SPÖ and the ÖVP. Reinthaller was asked to take over the new movement by then ÖVP Chancellor, Julius Raab, rather than let it be led by a more socialist-leaning group.

It wasn’t until the 1986, when Jörg Haider became leader, that the party took a more far-right populist turn.

He proposed highly controversial immigration policies and even remarked on how Nazi Germany had decent employment policy. Under Haider, the party had made significant gains despite the controversial rhetoric over immigration and the claim of the dangers of Islamisation and the general increase of the numbers of Muslims within Austria.

In recent years under the leadership of Strache they have continued their anti-immigration stance and continue to push the anti-Islam rhetoric, the latter ironically resonates with their large Serbian support (who are the largest group of immigrants in Austria). Their foreign policy also includes close ties with Israel and Strache was also intrigued by the far-right American Tea Party, has called himself the friend of the Serbs and rejects Kosovo’s right to independence.

They also call on the Russian sanctions to be lifted.

The party aren’t well-known away from Austria but behind the nationalist rhetoric of Austria’s cultural identity being lost, hides fascist elements that could be projected onto national politics if allowed to thrive and the ministries that they are in control of might just allow that.