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Rising populism behind Hofer’s win in Austria, Czech politicians say

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Prague, April 25 (CTK) – Czech politicians ascribed the victory of Norbert Hofer, candidate of the rightist populist Freedom Party (FPOe) in the first round of the Austrian presidential election on Sunday to rising populism in Europe in their comments for CTK yesterday.
Former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), who knows the Austrian political scene well, said the victory of Hofer, who won 36.4 percent of the vote, is also a consequence of the inability of the ruling coalition of the Social Democrats (SPOe) and People’s Party (OeVP).
According to Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD), Austrians react irritatedly because they fear economic stagnation.
Zaoralek said the election outcome can be interpreted as another warning of the “decline of the old times” in Europe.
“This does not mean that everything will be different now and that the era of traditional parties is over. On the contrary, Europe needs the traditional democratic methods and leaders more than before. By our everyday work, we have to persuade citizens to believe this. In Austria as well as in the our country,” Zaoralek told CTK.
Schwarzenberg also showed scepticism about the second round, citing conservative stances of the government parties’ voters. He said it is a question of whether they will support Hofer’s counter-candidate from the Green Party.
“I am sad, populists are winning everywhere, God save us,” Schwarzenberg said.
Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek, chairman of the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), also ascribed the result to populism in Europe.
“But it is only the first round,” he said.
Schwarzenberg said Alexander Van der Bellen, former chairman of the Green Party, who won 20.4 percent of the vote and will compete with Hofer in the second round, is an honourable professor, but he will not probably address SPOe and OeVP voters.
Jiri Ovcacek, spokesman for President Milos Zeman, said the failure of the mainstream parties should be analysed.
“Such a scenario can repeat in other countries, too. A possible recipe is for politicians to start to listen to citizens more,” Ovcacek told CTK.
Communist (KSCM) chairman Vojtech Filip said the growing support for quickly appearing populist parties is due to the “lack of competence of the European Commission which makes it possible to ride a wave of cheap popularity.”
He, too, said this was only the first round.
Right-wing opposition Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala said the Austrian voters showed fatigue at the country’s long-standing government coalition and rejected the policy that denies national interests.
The [first round] election result is another strong warning to the European elites who have been turning a blind eye to the problems that worry the EU countries’ citizens, Fiala said.
The second round will be held on May 22.

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