Revival for rightist Hofburg Palace bash

The Freedom Party (FPÖ) has been given the all-clear to host a ball at Hofburg Palace next year.

The right-wing faction headed by Heinz-Christian Strache has been accused of failing to disassociate from right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis for decades. Several FPÖ parliament members (MPs) and high-ranking representatives of the party as well as spearheads of other right-wing movements across Europe attended the Viennese Corporations Ball at Hofburg Palace in Vienna last January.

The ball was overshadowed by violent encounters of protesters and people attending it. Around one dozen people – including demonstrators, police officers and guests of the event – were injured that night. Police said that Austrian protesters had been joined by hundreds of foreigners on the street, especially left-wing groups from Germany who had come to Vienna under the motto of “beating up the neo-Nazis”.

The Viennese Corporations Ball first took place at Hofburg Palace in 1968. It has been organised by 21 right-wing student fraternities including Vienna’s Olympia which is also open to young rightists who did not study at universities. Strache – whose party could win the coming general elections – is a member of the group. The FPÖ garnered 17.5 per cent in the most recent federal ballot in 2008, up by 6.5 per cent compared to the vote of 2006. Analysts see the faction around 28 per cent while polls also show that 54 per cent of Austrians think that the right-wing faction is not immune to corruption.

A consortium of Austrian companies which manages Hofburg Palace’s promotion and marketing activities decided in December 2011 that the 2012 edition of the Corporations Ball would be the last to take place at the building which also features the Austrian president’s office and stables of the Spanish Riding School (SRS). The group of companies justified the cancellation of the contract by making aware of the political thunderstorm which erupted ahead and after the ball year after year due to its controversial guest list. Vienna’s Hotel Sacher is just one of the several prestigious enterprises which form Hofburg Palace’s management.

Now FPÖ Vienna whip Johann Gudenus confirmed reports claiming that his party would organise a ball at Hofburg Palace in 2013. Gudenus said today (Tues) that the FPÖ received the go-ahead from Hofburg managers. He said the event’s name would be Viennese Ball of Academics. He claimed the ball would have nothing to do with the Corporations Ball and appealed to opponents of the FPÖ not to criticise its decision to organise it. Gudenus argued they were too soon with issuing a verdict since it would take place for the first time next year.

The FPÖ’s law and order policies and its controversial immigration opinions find strong acclaim among Austria’s working class. However, research shows that the party is doing remarkably well among pensioners, young people and even some social classes with a migratory background. The political movement – which won almost 26 per cent in the Viennese city election of 2010 – stopped verbal attacks at Austria’s Jewish community. Instead, the FPÖ called for stricter immigration rules for people from Islamic countries. Strache – who has a strong fan base among FPÖ supporters but is one of Austria’s least popular politicians at the same time – has warned about a creation of parallel societies many times.