FPÖ boss wants minarets referendum

Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache has announced a referendum over minarets if he wins the upcoming Vienna election.The right-winger announced today (Tues) he will hold a referendum to let residents decide whether they want a law preventing the construction of minarets in the capital.He said: “I will immediately hold a referendum over the issue if I become mayor, and I will also change construction regulations.”There are hundreds of houses of prayers and Muslim community centres in Vienna, but just one mosque with a minaret.Anas Schakfeh, president of the Austrian Islamic Denomination (IGGiÖ), stirred up an emotional debate by calling for the construction of a “visible” mosque in all of Austria’s nine provincial capitals.Schakfeh’s idea received support from many Muslims, while some also criticised him for making such a statement weeks before an election.The FPÖ is tipped to garner significantly more on 10 October than the 14.8 per cent they won in the 2005 ballot.Strache further explained today he planned to hold referendums over “all mayor building projects” in Vienna if he manages to replace Social Democrat (SPÖ) Michael Häupl as mayor of the federal capital.Analysts said the SPÖ might lose its absolute majority in seats (49.1 per cent). The party is expected to approach the People’s Party (ÖVP) for coalition talks, ruling out a right-wing mayor. Vienna has had only Socialist and Social Democratic since the end of World War Two.Strache said his plans to hold referendums on controversial and expensive building projects confirmed his support for “direct democracy”.He added politics ignoring people’s opinions must come to an end in Vienna.The right-winger – who heads the FP֒s Vienna branch as well as its federal board – announced plans to set up a citizen service centre at City Hall in case of an election triumph.”People don’t have the chance nowadays to speak to the mayor personally,” he said, hitting out at Häupl who previously branded Strache a “stupid person” and a “loser”.Strache said he hoped to win an absolute majority since he saw no chance to realise his plans in a coalition.SPÖ and the Greens have ruled out cooperation with Strache’s party after the election which is expected to have a strong impact on the political climate on a federal level.Häupl has promised to focus on content and information instead of populist slogans, explaining he will not meet Strache to debate topics relevant for the future of the city “since he (Strache) has nothing to contribute”.Strache is tipped to remain in federal parliament after the Vienna vote, paving the way for far-right Johann Gudenus. The head of the FP֒s youth organisation has caused controversy by using Third Reich era terms to speak out against more immigration.Harald Vilimsky, listed third after Strache and Gudenus by the FPÖ for the Vienna ballot, is also tipped to play a key role in the city parliament after the election. Vilimsky currently acts as the federal FP֒s general secretary.He infuriated left-wing opponents and NGOs by calling for “immigration to stop for people from Islamic countries” following Schakfeh’s calls for more minarets. Vilimsky also branded mosques “hotbeds of radical Islam”, while Strache labelled the SPÖ an “Islamist party”.Strache controversially increased efforts trying to win the support of Vienna’s Serbian community. The SPÖ is traditionally popular among Turks, while many Polish citizens living in Vienna back the ÖVP.Vienna ÖVP chief Christine Marek recently launched a bid to tackle Strache’s popularity among people originating from former Yugoslav countries by naming Croat-born swimmer Dinko Jukic the ÖVP’s front runner in the district of Meidling.Meanwhile, more than 400 Vienna residents followed calls made by NGOs to donate blood to show their disagreement with a new FPÖ poster slogan.The right-wing party’s new election campaign poster series calls for “Mehr Mut für unser ‘Wiener Blut’ – Zu viel Fremdes tut niemandem gut”, meaning “More Courage for our ‘Viennese Blood’ – Too much of the other doesn’t do any good for anyone.”Previous campaigns of the FPÖ featured slogans like “Daham statt Islam” (Homeland instead of Islam), causing outcry among many opponents – and internet campaigns making fun of the statements.