VIENNA (Reuters) - A high-ranking candidate of Austria’s Freedom Party (FPO) rejected the president’s call to step down after it emerged that a fraternity he helped lead distributed song books with Nazi content.
The anti-immigrant Freedom Party, junior coalition government partner to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives, was founded by former Nazis and has repeatedly excluded members in Nazi scandals. It says it has left its Nazi past behind.
The FPO’s top candidate for elections in the province of Lower Austria, Udo Landbauer, was deputy leader of a fraternity that produced a songbook in 1997 that included references to killing Jews.
Authorities are investigating the issue.
President Alexander Van der Bellen eventually called for Landbauer to resign.
Asked by ORF radio whether he can rule out stepping down, Landbauer, 31, said, “Decidedly.”
Austria’s main Jewish body, the IKG, and Israel have upheld their boycott of FPO officials even after they joined government last month upon gaining third place, with 26 percent of votes, in parliamentary elections in October.
The chief of Lower Austria’s conservatives, which got around half of the votes in Sunday’s elections, said she was ready to work with the Freedom Party, which gained 15 percent, but ruled out bringing Landbauer into the province’s cabinet.
Reporting By Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Clarence Fernandez