Austria's Strache backs far-right 'population replacement' claim

May, 2019

The leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) has reiterated a racially-charged claim that Austrians were at risk of becoming a minority in their own country.

Heinz-Christian Strache, FPO leader and Austrian vice chancellor, told journalists on Wednesday that "population replacement" in Austria was "a reality that cannot be denied".

He was responding to criticism of remarks in an interview with Austria's largest newspaper Kronen Zeitung, in which he said his party was fighting "population replacement".

The term is associated with a racist conspiracy theory popular in far-right circles, known as the "great replacement". It argues that the white, European - and Christian - population is being "replaced" by a population of non-white, Muslim refugees and migrants.

Strache said his party had used the term "for decades".

"Many citizens rightly say these are political decisions - the extent to which one wants to continue to allow immigration on a massive scale, the extent to which demographic development then leads to a situation where an ancestral population becomes a minority, and many do not want that," he added.

Strache occupies the second-highest position in government and his party is part of the ruling coalition with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's centre-right People's Party (OVP), which came to power in 2017 with a hard-line on immigration similar to that of the FPO.

Strache was standing next to Kurz at Wednesday's news conference.

Earlier in the day, the chancellor, in an interview on state television channel ORF, had expressed his disapproval of the use of the term.

However, in the same interview, Kurz defended his coalition with Strache's FPO party, saying: "When you have a coalition partner, there are always moments when something doesn't suit you."

Source: Aljazeera