Israel concerned over Austrian far-right vote

Israel has expressed "deep concern" over the massive success of the Austrian far-right in this week's elections.

The combined success of the far-right parties amounted to almost a third of all votes cast in the early elections, called after Austria's coalition collapsed in June. They may now be called upon to help form a new government.

"We regard what happened as a matter for deep concern," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. "It is extremely preoccupying that elements which promote xenophobia and Holocaust-denial and befriend neo-Nazis are gaining political ground and obtaining widespread support. We will follow developments very closely."

The Freedom Party took 18 per cent of the vote, with its former leader Jörg Haider taking 11 per cent with his breakaway Movement for Austria's Future.

Just weeks ago, Ariel Muzicant, the president of the Austrian Jewish community, said that although Mr Haider's party had formally distanced itself from the Nazis, "if you scratch below the surface, those well-known underground Nazis come out, and in droves".

Mr Haider's Freedom Party came second in the 1999 elections, and its inclusion in a governing coalition the following year led to Israel recalling its ambassador from Vienna.

However, Mr Palmor declined to comment on whether Jerusalem was considering any similar measures.
"It is premature to make forecasts on Israeli actions or even the make-up of the next Austrian government," he said.

Analysts said that the success of the far-right was partly due to protest voting on issues including disillusionment with the main centrist parties.

    Last updated: 5:11pm, March 2 2009