Tags: EU | Austria | Right | Wing Ball

Guests at Austrian Right-wing Ball Have Reasons to Celebrate

Friday, 03 February 2017 01:23 PM

VIENNA (AP) — Guests preparing Friday for Austria's annual right-wing ball have a particular reason to celebrate this year — the White House victory of Donald Trump and the strength of like-minded populists elsewhere.

They are again likely to be outnumbered by protesters on the street. But after decades of being marginalized, those attending the Akademikerball can argue this year that their views are now supported by a large number of Austrians — perhaps even the majority — as well as a sizable number of voters elsewhere in Europe

With tensions high, police barriers were up Friday evening and 2,700 officers were mobilized to ensure that attacks on taxis carrying ball-goers, trashing of storefronts near the ball and similar past violence will not be repeated.

Past ball participants have included France's Marine Le Pen, Belgium's Filip Dewinter, and Russia's Alexander Dugin. But while no prominent non-Austrian populist is known to be attending this year, guests preparing for the white-tie event at Vienna's ornate Hofburg palace are heartened.

Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer lost December elections for the Austrian presidency. Still, his anti-Muslim immigration and Euroskeptic messages reverberated with a sizable segment of voters.

Nearly 50 percent of those who cast ballots supported him, and his party is riding high, consistently outpolling not only other opposition parties but also the mainstream government coalition as the most popular political force.

"We are totally normal patriots, like three million Austrians" who support the Freedom Party, said Alexander Markovics of the Generation Identity movement. Like the Freedom Party, which is organizing Friday's ball, movement members advocate a European "dominant culture" that they claim is threatened by Muslim immigration. They also want strong nation-states instead of a centralistic European Union.

For decades, these were considered minority views and those attending the Akademikerball portrayed themselves as victims, the target of street mobs, hostile media and the political establishment.

But Europe's right is on a roll. Ahead of key elections in France and the Netherlands, prominent populists hail Trump's victory as a sign of the times for their own coming triumph that already was bolstered by Britain's decision to leave the EU.

Trump's victory is important not only "because an American patriot has gained power but also because he is an American president who wants to pull back from the affairs of other countries ... Austria included," Markovics said. "We support that, because Europe and European countries will gain more sovereignty and freedom to act."

Associated Press Writer George Jahn in Vienna contributed.

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Guests preparing Friday for Austria's annual right-wing ball have a particular reason to celebrate this year - the White House victory of Donald Trump and the strength of like-minded populists elsewhere.They are again likely to be outnumbered by protesters on the street....
EU,Austria,Right,Wing Ball
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2017-23-03
Friday, 03 February 2017 01:23 PM
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