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1ST LEAD Rightward tilt in Austria politics draws tens of thousands to protest By Christiane Oelrich, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Vienna (dpa) - At least 20,000 protesters turned out in central Vienna Saturday waving banners and blowing whistles to protest the country‘s new right-leaning government.

Organizers say the new coalition between Chancellor Sebastian Kurz‘s People‘s Party (OeVP) and Heinz-Christian Strache‘s right-wing Freedom Party (FPOe) has racist, far-right extremist and neo-fascist tendencies.

"Our country will not be taken over by these new fascists," shouted Michael Genner, with the Platform for Humane Asylum Policy, during the protest.

Many of the protesters are worried that the government will impose stricter asylum controls and take apart some of the country‘s network of social programmes.

Marchers congregated at the city‘s Heroe‘s Square. Other groups joining the protest include the Offensive Against the Right, the Platform of Radical Leftists, and Grandmothers Against the Right.

Police said there were 20,000 demonstrators. Organizers said the true number was closer to 80,000. Police said estimates were hard to make, since there were many people in the city centre Saturday, including many who had come to watch, but not participate in, the protest.

Kurz‘s centre-right OeVP has been in government for years, usually in coalition with the centre-left Social Democratic Party. But tensions between those parties last year made a new coalition impossible.

The FPOe was last in government from 2000-05, a period which saw many Western countries worried about Austria‘s rightward tilt. This time, the international reaction was muted, but left-leaning Austrians have vowed to fight the new government.

During his party‘s traditional new year‘s gathering, Strache said the new government would put an emphasis on stopping illegal migrants. He attacked the "complete failure of those politically responsible" for a 2015 surge in migration, that saw thousands arrive and stay in Austria.

Kurz promised during his campaign to put controls on migration, a stance that has become harder since his coalition with Strache‘s party.


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