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Austrian Jewish leader warns against working with far-right Freedom Party

The head of Austria's Jewish community has cautioned against forming a government with the right-wing Freedom Party. He warned that the party is still highly xenophobic despite its attempts to tone down its rhetoric. With formal coalition talks due to begin within days, the president of Austria's main Jewish association issued a warning to the country's centrist parties about working with the far-right, nationalist Freedom Party (FPÖ). "When the nationalist wolf puts on a blue sheepskin, it changes only its appearance and not its character," Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna and Austria's Jewish communities, wrote in an open letter on Facebook on Sunday. Blue is color of the Freedom Party. The conservative People's Party (ÖVP), headed by Sebastian Kurz, won the most votes in this month's election but came up short of a majority at 32 percent. The center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ) came in second with around 26.9 percent closely followed by the anti-immigration FPÖ at 26 percent. Kurz previously said his party shares common ground with the FPÖ on several issues, although he said on Monday that he's unsure which party he would like to enter coalition talks with. It's predicted that he will turn to the far-right FPÖ as both parties called for the government to take a hard line on migration during the election. They both also want to decrease taxes on companies. Read more: Make Austria Great Again — the rapid rise of Sebastian Kurz "If ÖVP and SPÖ believe they can tame the wolf, they are deceiving themselves," Deutsch said in his post, adding that any government involving the FPÖ would be "irresponsible." "Whether a grand coalition or a minority government will be formed ... is secondary," noted Deutsch. "It's important to be aware of the responsibilities for Austria, for Europe, and for the future." On Friday, Kurz posted a picture on Twitter of a meeting with Deutsch on Friday, writing: "I am thankful for the active Jewish community in our country." FPÖ rejects criticism Founded by former Nazis around 60 years ago, the FPÖ has since worked to attract more moderate voters by toning down its rhetoric and shifting its focus from being anti-foreigner to staunchly anti-Islam. The party's most prominent Jewish member, David Lasar, dismissed Deutsch's remarks in a statement. Read more:Austria election: Europe reacts to Sebastian Kurz victory "The FPÖ has always been committed to the safety of Austria's Jewish population, especially at a time that anti-Semitism has strengthened its base in Europe due to the limitless immigration of Islamist fundamentalists," Lasar said. Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache has insisted that anti-Semitism has no place in the current FPÖ, which regularly has to expel members who cross the line. Strache has also called anti-Semitism a crime and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. "Symbolic visits to Israel cannot conceal all this. Austria's Jewish community will not whitewash (this)," Deutsch said. He added that there were racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic incidents "almost daily" in Austria.

The head of Austria’s Jewish community has cautioned against forming a government with the right-wing Freedom Party. He warned that the party is still highly xenophobic despite its attempts to tone down its rhetoric. With formal coalition talks due to begin within days, the president of Austria’s main Jewish association issued a warning to the country’s centrist parties about working ... Read More »

Spain’s socialist PSOE votes to abstain in prime minister confidence vote

اسپین کی سوشلسٹ جماعت نے قدامت پسند حکمران پاپولر پارٹی کو اقلیتی حکومت بنانے کی اجازت دے دی ہے۔ گزشتہ برس بیس دسمبر سے اسپین میں کوئی مستقل حکومت نہیں ہے۔ متعدد انتخابات میں غیر فیصلہ کن نتائج کے بعد اسپین میں حکومت سازی کے عمل میں کئی پیچیدگیاں دیکھنے میں آئی تھیں۔ سوشلسٹ جماعت پی ایس او ای کے ترجمان کا اتوار کے روز کہنا تھا کہ وہ پاپولر پارٹی کی جانب سے حکومت سازی کی مخالفت نہیں کریں گے۔ اتوار کے روز سوشلسٹ پارٹی نے پارلیمنٹ میں ہونے والی رائے شماری میں حصہ لیتے ہوئے اس قراردار کے خلاف ووٹ ڈالے جس کے ذریعے پاپولر پارٹی کو حکومت سازی کے لیے روکا جانا تھا۔ یوں دس ماہ سے جاری سیاسی عدم استحکام ختم ہونے کا امکان ہو گیا ہے اور نئے انتخابات کی ضرورت شاید اب نہ پڑے۔ سوشلسٹ پارٹی کی کمیٹی کے ایک سو انتالیس ارکان نے وزیر اعظم ماریانو راخوئے کے خلاف تحریک عدم اعتماد میں ووٹ نہ ڈالنے کا جب کہ چھیانوے نے اس کے خلاف فیصلہ کیا تھا۔ راخوئے کو اس وقت تیس سو پچاس رکنی پارلیمنٹ میں ایک سو ستر ارکان کی حمایت حاصل ہے، جس میں ایک سو سینتیس کا تعلق پاپولر پارٹی سے ہے۔ تاہم ان کو عدم اعتماد کی تحریک کے خلاف دیگر جماعتوں کے ووٹ یا ان کا ووٹنگ میں شریک نہ ہونا درکار تھا، جو کہ سوشلسٹ پارٹی کے فیصلے کے بعد ممکن ہو گیا۔ تین دہائیوں سے اسپین میں دو جماعتی نظام قائم ہے، جس میں پاپولر پارٹی اور سوشلسٹ برسر اقتدار رہے ہیں، تاہم دسمبر میں ہونے والے انتخابات کے نتیجے میں کئی چھوٹی جماعتوں نے بھی عمدہ کارکردگی دکھائی۔ دسمبر کے انتخابات کے نتائج کو وزیر اعظم ماریانو راخوئے کے لیے بڑا دھچکا قرار دیا گیا تھا۔ اسپین کی سیاسی تاریخ میں یہ پاپولر پارٹی کی خراب ترین کارکردگی تھی۔ سیاسی تجزیہ کاروں کے مطابق حکومتی سطح پر بدعنوانی کے متعدد اسکینڈلز اور ملک میں بڑھتی ہوئی بےروزگاری نے ہسپانوی عوام کو حکمران جماعت سے بدظن کر دیا تھا۔ دوسری جانب سوشلسٹ پارٹی اس صورت حال سے کوئی خاص سیاسی اور انتخابی فائدہ اٹھانے میں ناکام رہی۔ اسپین کی صورت حال پڑوسی ملک پرتگال سے مطابقت رکھتی ہے، جہاں گزشتہ برس اکتوبر میں ہونے والے انتخابات میں قدامت پسندوں کو فتح تو حاصل ہو گئی تھی تاہم حکومت بنانے میں سوشلسٹ کامیاب ہوئے تھے۔ اسپین میں ایک نئی سیاسی طاقت پوڈیموس پارٹی بن کر ابھری ہے۔ یہ جماعت بجتی کٹوتیوں کی مخالف ہے۔ سوشلسٹوں کی جانب سے راخوئے کی حمایت سے قبل حکومت سازی کے لیے اس جماعت کی حمایت حاصل کرنا ضروری سمجھا جا رہا تھا۔ مبصرین کے مطابق یہ صورت حال یورپ بھر میں ایک رجحان کا اشارہ دے رہی ہے۔ دو بڑی جماعتوں کی اجارہ داری ٹوٹ رہی ہے اور نئی جماعتیں، خواہ وہ بائیں بازو کی سیاست کر رہی ہوں یا دائیں بازو کی، یورپی ممالک کی سیاست میں نمایاں ہو رہی ہیں۔

The Spanish socialist PSOE party has voted to abstain in a confidence vote, paving the way for a minority conservative government. Leaders of Spain’s center-left Socialist Party (PSOE) agreed on Sunday to abstain from a confidence vote in the conservative acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Senior members of the party voted 139 in favor of abstaining in the vote, with ... Read More »

Austrian chancellor’s resignation allows party to rebuild

Austrian Werner Faymann has stepped down as chancellor and leader of the Social Democrats. As Alison Langley in Vienna reports, his resignation throws the future of the Austria's government into question. Next to Germany's Angela Merkel, Faymann was one of the longest ruling leaders in Europe. But his inability to tackle systemic problems caused his downfall. While Social Democratic leaders say his departure will help them rebuild the party, their government coalition partner, the conservative Austrian People's Party, could decide to change allegiances and side with the far-right Freedom Party and call for a new election. Should that happen, Austria could be the first western European country to elect the first far right government since World War Two. "Austria could be the beginning of the return of the right," said Alexandra Foederl-Schmid, editor-in-chief of Der Standard. "This is a very real possibility." Faymann's resignation comes two weeks after his party's candidate received an embarrassing pummeling in the first round of presidential elections. Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer received more than 35 percent of the vote and is the top runner to be Austria's next president. Voters expressed their anger over the government's inability to solve many of the country's problems, including rising unemployment, the refugee crisis and education reform. "When you've had the honor of being chancellor for seven and a half years, then one can only say thank you, and I say that from my deepest inner conviction," said Faymann, 56, in a hastily called press conference just before lunch. Coalition partner, the Austrian People's Party, has called an emergency meeting for Tuesday. It could vote to leave the coalition. If it does so, elections would be held in September. Vienna Mayor Michael Häupl to be interim leader Vienna's mayor, Michael Häupl, will be the party's interim leader. A successor for the chancellory has not yet been announced. Two likely successors for Faymann could be Christian Kern, the current head of Austria's Railway, and Gerhard Zeiler, a former head of Austria's public broadcaster and currently an executive at private media group RTL. 'Werner let us be' The weekend was filled with speculation over Faymann's future. At one point, Josef Muchitsch, a prominent union leader, pleaded in a letter: "Werner, let us be!" However, by Monday morning, conventional wisdom was that the chancellor would hang on at least until the party convention in November mainly because there was no obvious successor. The long-time party leader had spent Monday morning meeting with union leaders and midday with party leaders from each state before announcing his resignation. Faymann was Austria's 13th chancellor. He took office Dec. 2, 2008. When he took office, unemployment was at 4.7 percent. At a time when the jobless rate has fallen in other European nations, it has gone up in this Alpine country: In April it stood at 5.7 percent. "The strong support of the party has disappeared," Fayman said, adding that he accepts the consequence. SPÖ now must rebuild Still his resignation was a surprise to many, even Salzburg's governor Walter Steidl, who told reporters "I'm surprised; reason has won," he said, as he left the midday meeting. Most party members greeted the politician's departure, but said more needed to be done to turn around rising unemployment and help to integrate 90,000 refugees who flooded the country last year. "This is a first step, but it's not enough," Camila del Pilar Garfias, a leader of the youth wing of the Social Democrat party, told DW. Austria has been deeply divided over many issues, but perhaps the toughest issue has been how to solve the refugee crisis. Last year, when the wave of migrants turned into a rush, Faymann stood beside Merkel in welcoming those fleeing war. When the country was overwhelmed with 90,000 asylum requests, Faymann, who prided himself on a "stable" governing style, was at a loss for what to do. The party seemed ruderless; he left the policy to governing partner, the People's Party, which has erected fences, resurrected border controls and announced an upper limit on the number of asylum seekers the country will accept this year. Faymann's resignation on Monday came two days after hundreds of protesters gathered at the Brenner Pass, on the border with Italy, to demonstrate against Austria's latest checks. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also criticized the new border controls, saying they would be a "political disaster" for Europe. Political commentator Thomas Hofer agreed that Faymann's departure paves the way for the Social Democrats and the People's Party to renegotiate a program acceptible to voters before national elections, which must be held by 2018 at the latest. However, if the Social Democrats appoint a strong, decisive leader, it could ironically play into the hands of the far right, said Foederl-Schmid. That's because a rebuilt center-left party might hurt the People's Party chances of re-election. The fate of the country now lies in the hands of the junior partner. The center-right party could choose instead to partner with the far-right Freedom Party. Coalition partner could switch allegiance Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner from the People's Party called for an emergency party meeting to discuss the future of the coalition. In a statement released to the press, Neo Party leader, Matthias Strolz, greeted Faymann's resignation, saying he hoped it would be the end to the "power cartel" of the two parties, which have ruled Austria since the end of the Second World War. Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the right-wing Freedom Party, said the change in leadership wasn't enough. "The new decoration in the display case doesn't change the poor assortment."

Austrian Werner Faymann has stepped down as chancellor and leader of the Social Democrats. As Alison Langley in Vienna reports, his resignation throws the future of the Austria’s government into question. Next to Germany’s Angela Merkel, Faymann was one of the longest ruling leaders in Europe. But his inability to tackle systemic problems caused his downfall. While Social Democratic leaders ... Read More »

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