Conservatives gain strength in Vienna elections

November 11, 1991|By New York Times News Service

VIENNA, Austria -- Alarmed by the prospect of a huge influx of East European immigrants, Vienna lurched to the right in voting yesterday for a municipal legislature.

The result is expected to cause strains between left and right in Austria's national coalition government, which links the conservative People's Party with the Socialists of Chancellor Franz Vranitzky.

The Vienna election bolstered not only the right-wing Freedom Party and its popular leader, Joerg Haider, but also the environmental Greens, who oppose Mr. Vranitzky's goal of Austrian membership in the European Community.

It provided another illustration of how traditional voting patterns are shifting across Europe as a result of economic uncertainty, complicated in some countries by fears of emigration from Eastern Europe.

With virtually all returns in, the Freedom Party emerged as the biggest gainer, with 22.7 percent of the vote, compared with 9.7 percent four years ago. That pushed it past the People's Party as the second strongest force after the Socialists.

The People's Party received 18.1 percent, down from 28.4 percent. The Socialists, with 47.5 percent, after 54.9 percent four years ago, failed to obtain a majority in the general vote for the first time since 1949, although complex voting laws will assure them a majority of seats in the city legislature. The Greens entered the legislature for the first time, with 9.2 percent.

The Freedom Party's strong showing here reflected nervousness over immigration from Eastern Europe.

The opening of borders after the collapse of East European communism in 1989 has unleashed a flood of immigrants. Vienna's foreign population has swelled to more than 240,000, about 13 percent of the 1.8 million total.

Interviewed before the vote, Mr. Haider said his Freedom Party's demand for a halt to immigration was only a means to avoid the kind of attacks against foreigners that have occurred in Germany and France.

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