Revelations about fake Facebook accounts that smeared candidates in Austria’s election race have dealt a severe blow to social democratic Chancellor Christian Kern’s efforts to prevent a shift to the right at the Oct. 15 parliamentary vote.
News reports in recent days forced the Social Democratic Party (SPOe) to admit that one of its staffers was involved in covertly setting up Facebook pages that sought to discredit conservative front-runner Sebastian Kurz.
The party’s Executive Manager, Christoph Matznetter, said on Monday, two days after his predecessor resigned due to the scandal that “with 14 days to the election, SPOe is faced with more than depressing situation.”
Kern is lagging behind Foreign Minister Kurz in polls, as the conservative People’s Party (OevP) chief dominated the race with his tough policy proposals on immigration and asylum seekers.
“The SPOe is going down in total chaos,’’ the Kronen Zeitung, Austria’s biggest tabloid, wrote.
One of the fake Facebook accounts contained racist and anti-semitic content, apparently designed to look as if they were posted by far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) sympathisers.
The SPOe, which tried to form government with the OeVP in the past decade, wanted to prevent a coalition between the OeVP and the far-right after the election.
According to media reports that are not disputed by the SPOe, the idea for the Facebook ruse is from its Israeli campaign advisor, Tal Silberstein.
Silberstein was arrested in Israel in August for unrelated accusations, including money laundering.