The Austrian flag | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/D.I.Karmann
The Austrian flag | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa/D.I.Karmann

The far-right FPÖ party in Austria has come under fire for a poem by one of their local officials that compared migrants with rats. Kurz and opposition leaders strongly condemned the racist poem. The author of the poem has resigned.

An anti-migrant poem published by a local branch of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), the junior party of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's government coalition, has been met with widespread outrage. Kurz and other Austrian political leaders have condemned the ditty titled "The Town Rat."

The poem was written by Christian Schilcher, the FPÖ deputy mayor of the town of Braunau in Upper Austria. It used the image of foreign rats integrating with Austrian ones to illustrate the alleged dangers of "mixing" cultures and languages. In the poem, which was circulated in Braunau via a party pamphlet over Easter weekend, Schilcher also complained about Austria's "Willkommenskultur," or welcome culture, and about investments made in integration measures.

"The choice of words is disgusting, shows contempt for human beings and is deeply racist," Chancellor Kurz told the Austrian APA news agency. "The Freedom Party in Upper Austria must distance themselves from this immediately and unequivocally and issue a clarification," Kurz went on.

Kurz leads the center-right People's Party (ÖVP), which has been in coalition with the FPÖ since elections in late 2017, in which both parties ran on anti-immigration platforms.

Author of poem resigns

According to media reports, Christian Schilcher, the FPÖ deputy mayor who wrote the poem, on Tuesday resigned and left the party. In case the prosecutors decide to take the investigations to trial, Schilcher might face criminal consequences.

On Monday, Schilcher had apologized in a statement for his "diffuse and not precise enough wording," admitting that the comparison of humans and rats is "historically charged and more than unfortunate." His goal was to provoke, not to offend or hurt anybody, he said. Schilcher also told the regional Oberösterreichische Nachrichten paper that the row was "much ado about nothing" ahead of the EU parliament elections.

On Monday, the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, had said in a statement that the poem was "a reminder of a way of talking about certain groups which was widespread in Nazi propaganda."

"The facts are clear. Where are the consequences, Mr Kurz?" she asked.

With EU parliament elections next month fast approaching, Kurz has come under increasing pressure to condemn the actions of some FPÖ members. Last month, the FPÖ came under scrutiny for its ties to the nationalist Identitarian group, which received a donation from suspected New Zealand mosque attacker Brenton Tarrant.

After that episode, Kurz demanded that the party break all ties with the Identitarians, saying he would "not tolerate any indecisiveness when it comes to dealing with this right-wing extremist movement".

With material from dpa/AFP/AP


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