Austria’s center-right People’s Party (OeVP) said on Sunday that it would insist on the banning of the far-right Identitarian Movement (IBOe) as a condition of any coalition after parliamentary elections next month.
Such a ban “must be in the next coalition agreement,” OeVP parliamentary group leader August Woeginger said in a statement released to Austrian media.
The IBOe, previously best known for its anti-immigration stunts, sparked controversy in Austria earlier this year after it was revealed that its leader Martin Sellner received money and exchanged emails with the suspected perpetrator of gun attacks on mosques in New Zealand in March which left 51 people dead.
The OeVP’s call for the movement to be banned comes as it tries to maintain its commanding poll lead ahead of parliamentary elections on 29 September while at the same time distancing itself from its former coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe).
Austrian media reports have documented numerous links between Identitarian activists and FPOe party members.
After the OeVP first floated possible moves against the Identitarians earlier this week, the FPOe’s former Interior Minister Herbert Kickl rejected the possibility of banning the IBOe, saying such a move would be “a deep attack on the rule of law.”
Woeginger said in his statement that Kickl had become the Identitarians’ “principal patron saint.”
The coalition between the OeVP and the FPOe was sworn in in late 2017 but was dogged by frequent scandals over extremist statements by FPOe party members.
The government collapsed in May after a video emerged of the then leader of the FPOe, Heinz-Christian Strache, appearing to offer public contracts to a fake Russian donor in return for campaign help for the FPOe.
The scandal prompted Strache to resign as vice-chancellor and led then Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to call fresh elections.
Earlier this week Strache’s house was raided as part of another investigation into possible corruption offences surrounding the appointment of an FPOe official to a high-ranking position at a gambling corporation.
Despite the scandals, and the recriminations that have flown between the OeVP and the FPOe since their coalition collapsed, a fresh government composed of the two parties is seen as one of the most likely outcomes of September’s poll.