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Yearbook 2015

Austria. Amendments adopted in the country's Islamic law of 1912 meant that Muslim congregations were banned from receiving foreign funding. The aim was to stave off radical Islamism, but many objected to Islam being treated differently than other religions. The law was initially instituted to give Muslims rights in the then-imperial Empire of Austria-Hungary.

2015 Austria

The difficult refugee situation in Europe was brutally reminded when police in August found an abandoned truck with 71 dead people in the cargo area near the border with Hungary. Several people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the smuggling and for leaving the refugees in the truck to their fate. Critics have pointed out that the lack of legal paths to Europe for asylum seekers paved the way for similar disasters.

The flow of people increased after the summer when railway stations were turned into refugee camps and train connections had to be canceled. In just a few autumn months, around 400,000 migrants arrived in Austria, one of the highest rates per inhabitant of any EU country. However, the majority went on to Germany; the number of asylum seekers in Austria during the first eleven months of the year was 70,000.

The refugee crisis caused many Austrians to help with clothing and food, but also contributed to continued increasing support for the right-wing extreme Freedom Party (FP). In opinion polls, the party became the largest in the country with over 30% voter support and a substantial lead ahead of the traditionally largest parties, Social Democratic SP and conservative VP. FP also performed very strongly in this year's regional elections. In Burgenland, this led to the FP forming a coalition with the SP and in Upper Austria with the VP. In Styria, almost three times FP increased its electoral support and became equal to the other two, but they chose to form a so-called large coalition and exclude the xenophobic party.

According to COUNTRYAAH, FP leader Heinz-Christian Strache then aimed at the mayor's post in Vienna, and also where FP made its best result so far. However, SP remained the largest party with close to 40% of the vote and Michael Hupl, who has been mayor since 1994, could remain.

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