Austrian populist leader of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) Heinz-Christian Strache praised the UK and Brexit in the latest televised Austrian election debate and hit out hard against his main rival Sebastian Kurz.
Mr. Strache declared that “Britain will be better off after Brexit” during the debate and slammed the European Union (EU) and its role during the height of the migrant crisis in 2015. He went on to accuse Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) leader, and current frontrunner, Sebastian Kurz of not doing enough in the EU to represent Austria’s interests, Kronen Zeitung reports.
Kurz countered saying that he was the first foreign minister to veto the plans for Turkey to proceed on becoming a member of the political bloc and said he had been instrumental in helping to shut down the Balkan migrant route.
The pair also talked about the notorious “Silberstein-affair” in which consultant Tal Silberstein, who was paid over half a million euros by the Social Democrats (SPÖ), allegedly set up Facebook pages against Kurz with anti-Semitic content.
The pages were meant to imply that the authors behind them had been members or supporters of the Freedom Party which the Austrian media regularly conflates with anti-Semitic incidents.
Kurz noted the case of Johannes Hübner, a former FPÖ politician who resigned after he gave a speech in which some claimed he gave “anti-Semitic allusions”.
Last year during the presidential campaign, FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer was also indicted by many in the media of charges of anti-Semitism after wearing a blue cornflower on his lapel. Mr. Hofer claimed at the time that he wore the flower because it was the party colour of blue and that it had a connection to the liberal revolutions in Austria of 1848.
Current polls show Kurz in the lead followed by Strache who has gained support after the downfall of current Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern due to the Silberstein affair.
Austria, Research Affairs poll:
ÖVP-EPP: 34% ↑
FPÖ-ENF: 27% ↑
SPÖ-S&D: 22% ↓
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) October 5, 2017
Austrians head to the polls on Sunday, October the 15th, to likely chose a new chancellor. In the debate, Kurz summed up what he thought would happen Sunday, telling Strache: “Either you or I will be chancellor.”