As the winter months fast approach, Herbert Kickl, the leader of national-conservative Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ), has called for an immediate referendum vote on the government’s sanction regime against the Russian Federation.
The FPÖ chief’s call for a referendum, which if adopted by voters would see sanctions imposed against Russia lifted, comes six months into the Russo-Ukraine war, and as Austrians have thus far committed nearly 60 million euros to support the Ukrainian war effort, a tax burden that amounts to one-fifth of citizens’ gross incomes, the Linz-based newspaper Wochenblick reports.
“We have no time to lose. The heating season is fast approaching,” Kickl said, arguing that the “sanctions have had no effect on the war” but have “fueled inflation and hurt the local economy.”
Kickl added that the current situation reminds him of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the ruling coalition government “talked people into [accepting] things that were not right for two years before they finally switched to the FPÖ line of reasoning.”
However, “in the case of sanctions, we no longer have two years, but a maximum of two months,” Kickl continued, adding: “If sanctions, which amount to a gunshot to the knee, are not ended, then the coming winter threatens to be very uncomfortable for many people.”
In the past month, support for the ruling coalition government, composed of establishment Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP) and left-liberal Die Grünen, has declined precipitously, dropping from 51% to 30%, likely due to rapidly growing discontent over the massive cost-of-living hikes that have taken place in the wake of the sanctions regime.
Conversely, the FPÖ, which has stood for Austrian neutrality in the conflict, has seen its support jump from 16% to 21% in August, placing it as the country’s second most popular party, tied with the ruling ÖVP.
Per the latest opinion survey, carried out by the Institute for Demoscopy and Data Analysis (IFDD) with the Austrian broadcaster Puls4, support for the government’s sanctions against Russia has greatly diminished, with a majority of Austrians now calling for an end to the sanctions against Russia.