A STORY OF VITUPERATION IN VIENNA, AUSTRIA
‘A poor turnout. I thought there would have been more.’
Steiner looked out over the square. Behind the protesters the Hofburg, the Presidential Palace, sat unperturbed, protected by the line of police in riot gear. ‘How many are you counting?’
Valentina scanned the gathering, ‘A few thousand, five maybe.’
‘Last time it was over a hundred thousand.’
‘That was eighteen years ago. Times change.’
‘Not so much as you would think,’ Steiner carried on scribbling his copy in shorthand. He was one of the few journalists who still used pencil and a notebook. ‘You’re not old enough to realise these things always go in cycles.’
‘But do you think Kurz will be able to control them? He’s no older than I am.’
Steiner thought for a moment, then shrugged. ‘It depends how Strache decides to behave. He may tow the line in order to stay in power, then hope for an outright victory next time around, once he’s proved to the conservative voters that they can be trusted.’
Scuffles broke out along the line of barricades, but the police line held. The chants continued, along with the placards being waved: ‘Nazis Out!’; ‘Refugees Welcome’; ‘No Nazi Pigs!’
‘You’re putting the usual attendees?’ Valentina asked the more experienced reporter.
‘Students, Feminists, Anti-Fascist groups. Yes, the usual.’
Inside the parliament the new coalition government would have been sworn in by now. The protest had been futile beforehand, now it was nothing more than symbolic, and thanks to the low number of protesters, not a very effective symbol at that. Recent elections had failed to give any party an outright victory. The largest party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party had agreed to form a government with the support of the far-right Freedom Party, who would take a number of high-profile cabinet roles. New chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, at thirty-one, was to be the youngest government leader in the world.
‘What about the Muslims?’ Valentina asked.
Steiner shrugged, ’If it’s a protest vote then they’ll be okay. Things will settle down, just like last time.’ The Freedom Party had last been in a coalition government at the start of the millennium.
‘And if not?’
‘Nobody wants to see Austria dragged back to the last century. Austrians just want to see that the government is on top of immigration.’
‘You’re not at all worried? Why are we be the only party in Europe to have a far-right party in power?’
‘Things are different now. The European Union, the United Nations, they will ensure the rights of all citizens.’
‘I believe they said the same about the League of Nations in the 1930s.’
Steiner raised an eyebrow, ‘Now you’re being alarmist. Perhaps you should join the small band of protesters.’
‘Perhaps someone should be alarmed.’
The protest had fizzled out before it had really begun, the crowd began to disperse and drift away. ‘Well, that’s that,’ Steiner pocketed his notebook. ‘I’m off to type up my copy.’
‘I’ve already submitted mine,’ Valentina held up her tablet. Steiner was old school in more than just his conservative views.
Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.
Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today its Vienna, the capital of Austria – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.
Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.
For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.