FPÖ Mandatary Johannes Hübner Will Not Run in National Elections After Anti-Semitic Allusions

Der Standard, July 25, 2017

German original: https://derstandard.at/2000061771139/FPOe-Mandatar-Johannes-Huebner-tritt-bei-Nationalratswahl-nach-antisemitischen-Anspielungen

The right-wing member of parliament has been criticized because of a speech he gave at a gathering of right-wing extremists – expert: problem not solved for the Freedom Party

Vienna: The FPÖ – member of parliament Johannes Hübner will not run in the upcoming early election in October. This is what Hübner announced on Tuesday afternoon after he had remained silent on the issue for days.

He does not want to hurt his party said Hübner, who announced his decision on TV’s oe24.tv. His remarks, which were conceived as anti-Semitic, were a „stupid mistake.“ Although he has been sharply criticized for the remarks by representatives of different political sides, Hübner maintained that a „hard as bone strategy of destruction“ was behind the calls for his resignation. FPÖ Secretary-General Herbert Kickl accepted Hübner’s resignation, but regretsit on a personal level- he has known Hübner for many years as an „honest, dedicated and very educated“ human being.

Outrage over Statements

Der Standard reported last week that Hübner delivered a speech at an assembly of right-wing extremists in Thuringia (Germany) in the summer of 2016. He referred to the creator of the Austrian constitution as „Kohn“ – thereby using a designation used by National Socialists during the 1930s to dispraise the constitutional scholar of Jewish descent in an anti-Semitic manner.

Furthermore, during the same speech, Hübner insinuated that Austrian Federal Chancellor Christian Kern maintains good contacts with the Freemasons. He is a „Friedrich-Torberg awardee of the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG) and very well networked in the lodge scene.“ In addition, Hübner asserted that Der Standard either mentions National Socialism in every report on the FPÖ or cites a „so-called Holocaust Survivor.“

Calls for Resignation

The statements had promptly caused massive criticism from the other parties. „This mixture of anti-Semitism and a persecution complex is absolutely absurd and completely unacceptable,“ Chancellor Kern said. Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen, too, was appalled: „to play with ant-Semitism, when everyone knows to what it lead, is highly irresponsible.“

More recently, several high-ranking representatives from the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) threatened to ignore the FPÖ as a potential coalition partner should there be no consequences. ÖVP Secretary-General Elisabeth Köstinger told Der Standard during an interview that a coalition with an FPÖ in which Hübner serves a function was „absolutely not imaginable.“ SPÖ Minister of Defense Hans Doskozil made similar remarks.

Expert: problem not solved

Even after Hübner’s withdrawal, a basic problem regarding anti-Semitism within the FPÖ remains unsolved, according to Bernhard Weidinger, a political scientist and expert on fraternities at the Documentation Archive of the Austrian Resistance (DÖW): „Anti-Semitism was the twin brother of German nationalism,“ says Weidinger, the hatred for Jews has accompanied the ideology of German nationalist fraternities „from the cradle.“

Since Heinz-Christian Strache took over the leadership of the FPÖ, the influence of such German nationalist fraternities has been „as big as never before.“ More than half of the FPÖ’s federal party executive are members of such student unions; in the parliamentary club, too, the share of members of student fraternities is larger than during Jörg Haider’s time.  

But outside the fraternities, too, the demarcation of the FPÖ towards anti-Semitism has always been scruffy, according to Weidinger. The party maintains a close relationship with the magazine Aula, which „spreads explicit anti-Semitism in almost every issue,“ Weidinger said.

Safe seat in parliament

Hübner could have expected a safe seat in the National Council (the Austrian House of Representatives) as a result of the election on October 15: the FPÖ Viennese State Party secured the top spot on the ballot in the electoral district of Southwest Vienna, where the right-wingers recently secured a Grundmandat (a seat in parliament). The federal party leadership, too, had already rubber-stamped the lists while reserving the right to make minor changes. It was not known at the editorial deadline who would fill the now vacant seat.

Hübner’s appearance at the right-wing meeting in Thuringia could still have consequences after his withdrawal. The Viennese attorney could also face disciplinary measures. He was reported to the Bar after his comments were made public. (Maria Sterkl, 25.7.2017)