Parallels Between the Austrian and American Elections

By Katherine N Segovia, Opinion Writer

On Nov. 8, the U.S. elected its 45th president. Now imagine if, all of a sudden, the results of the election were nullified and a redo became necessary. This is exactly what happened in Austria after Alexander Van der Bellen, who was backed by the Green Party, won the election in April.

His opponent, Norbert Hofer, is a member of the Freedom Party and tends to lean far-right when it comes to issues, especially those such as gun control and immigration. Hofer has pledged to “Put Austria first” and to crack down on the immigration and refugee crisis. Sound familiar?

Hofer’s campaign platform and his stances greatly resemble those of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump. Hofer’s plan to close borders and prohibit the entry of more immigrant refugees resonated with his supporters in much the same way as Trump’s stance resonated with Americans.

On his website, Hofer states that he vows to protect Austria from the dangers of immigration. He writes, “we Austrians have a right to our homeland and to protection against Islamism and violence.”

The fact that Hofer has another chance at possibly being elected has frightened some of those living in Austria, including the refugees currently residing there.                      ABC News reported that Hofer’s plans include “building a fence along the southern border to keep out refugees, deporting those who have had their asylum claim rejected and stopping the invasion of Muslims.”

In a similar way, Trump also planned to “stop the invasion of Muslims” by banning Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. He has also proposed an ID system for Muslims.

By isolating and labeling Muslims in this way, both Trump and Hofer are emphasizing the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorists, which is most definitely not the case. By proposing that their countries no longer take in any refugees, both men are perpetuating a feeling of Islamophobia.

This will no doubt have a negative effect on the refugees, whose options are limited with regards to where they can go to escape the violence in their home countries.

Refugees are not coming to these countries to destroy or taint them or to cause any harm. Many are coming to escape the violence that is going on in Syria – the violence that they never asked to be a part of but are nonetheless subjected to on a daily basis.

Nothing else could explain why so many refugees would risk their lives on dangerous trips to other countries, where not everyone makes it out alive.

In September 2015, a three-year-old Syrian boy named Aylan Kurdi was found dead on the shores of Europe.

The Guardian reported that he was one of 12 refugees escaping the Islamic State in Syria. This is just one example of those who do not reach their destination and the extreme measures they go to in order to escape the violence in Syria. How can one possibly deny them the chance at a better, safer life?

There is no way to tell how the rerun of the Austrian election will go since the first one was a very close race. Whether or not Hofer wins will speak volumes of where the people of Austria stand on such issues, similar to how Trump’s victory emphasized how divided our own country is.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 22nd print edition.

Contact Katherine at

katherine.segovia@student.shu.edu

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