TIME

EUROPE SWINGS RIGHT

Austria is poised to elect a far-right President, in the clearest sign yet of a continental drift rightward.
Austrians cheer presidential candidate Norbert Hofer at a Freedom Party event in Vienna on Sept. 6

AS RECENTLY AS A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, WHEN Max Geishüttner was in his second year of law school in the Austrian city of Linz, he tended to avoid talking about his support for the country’s Freedom Party. It wasn’t exactly taboo, but a lot of Austrians still associated the party with racism, even neo-Nazism. Its first two leaders, from 1956 to 1978, were former SS officers, and their successors in the years that followed were implicated in a series of scandals over anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. In the homeland of Adolf Hitler, who also went to school in Linz, such a reputation seemed an impossible obstacle to popular acceptance in a Europe that was supposed to have left such prejudices behind.

“So you would feel, like, a bad conscience if you say, ‘I vote for the FPO,’ ” Geishüttner told me at one of the party’s campaign rallies in mid-September, using the Freedom Party’s German abbreviation. But 2016 is different. Thanks to a broader shift to the right in European politics, the FPO has become the most popular party in Austria, with its support growing fastest among voters younger than 30. Its presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer, is well positioned to win a runoff election in December, which would make Austria the first country in Western Europe to elect a far-right head of state since the fall of Nazi Germany. “Now it’s normal,” said Geishüttner.

The Freedom Party’s rise is not an anomaly. Across the once placid political landscape of Western

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