Far-right party to hold major ministries in Austrian coalition government


(JTA) — The far-right Freedom Party will hold the interior, defense, and foreign ministries in a coalition government with the conservative People’s Party in Austria.

The Freedom Party garnered the third-highest vote total in the October elections, behind the center-right People’s Party and the center-left Social Democrats. The results appear to be a result of the refugee crisis in Europe. People’s Party head Sebastian Kurz, who at 31 becomes Europe’s youngest leader, focused his campaign on the question of limiting migration, while the Freedom Party ran on a hardline anti-Islam platform. Austria accepted one of the highest proportions of refugees during the 2015 crisis.

The new government will be sworn in next week. Freedom Party head Heinz-Christian Strache will serve as the country’s vice-chancellor under Kurz.

The Jewish Community of Austria has said that the Freedom Party, which was founded in the 1950s by a former Nazi SS officer, is tainted by fascist tendencies and rhetoric, and that the anti-Islam party’s public rejection of anti-Semitism is lip service.

Some 9,000 Jews live in Austria, according to the Jewish Virtual Library figures for 2016, making them about 0.1 percent of the country’s population.

The Freedom Party last joined the Austrian government in 2000. At the time Israel recalled its ambassador from Austria and downgraded relations between the two countries.  Israel is not expected to react the same way this time, due to common interests in fighting radical Islam and stemming illegal immigration.

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