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Jrg Haider in Carinthia (promotional photo)
Jrg Haider in Carinthia (promotional photo)

Jrg Haider (born January 26, 1950) is an Austrian politician. He is currently Governor of Carinthia.

Haider was a leader of the far right Austrian Freedom Party (FP) and a leading figure in that party until April 2005, when he founded a new party, the "Alliance for the Future of Austria" (BZ). On April 7, he was expelled from the FP by its interim leader, Hilmar Kabas.

Contents

Youth and rise to party leadership

Haider was born in the Upper Austrian town of Bad Goisern in 1950. His parents were enthusiastic Nazis, who were punished after the Nazi defeat in World War II. Haider became wealthy when he inherited an estate bought from a fleeing Jew during World War II.

The Austrian Freedom Party (FP) was founded in 1955, and initially was a mixture of various political currents opposed both to the political catholicism of the Austrian People's Party and the left-wing views of the Social Democratic Party of Austria. With its roots in the Pan-German movement, it included both German-nationalist and liberal political views. In 1970 Haider became the leader of the FP youth movement. Haider rose rapidly through the party ranks. At the party convention held at Innsbruck in September 1986, he defeated Austrian vice chancellor Norbert Steger in the vote for party leadership, as many delegates feared that Steger's liberal political views and his coaltion with the Social Democrats threatened the party's existence.

Carinthia

Until 1989, the socialist/Social-democratic party SP had held an absolute majority in the Austrian province of Carinthia; when it received less than 50% of seats in 1989, VP and FP formed a coalition and elected Haider as Governor of Carinthia.

In 1991, in a debate in the regional parliament, a speaker attacked Haider's plan of reducing unemployment payments for people seen as "freeloaders", comparing Haider's plan to Nazi methods. Haider's reply "At least the Third Reich had a proper employment policy, which is more than you in Vienna can do" caused an uproar; Haider had to resign his post governor, and the FP-VP coalition was replaced by an SP-VP coalition.

In 1999, Haider again was elected governor of Carinthia by the Carinthian parliament, where the FP now held a plurality of more than 42%.

FP chairman

Under Haider's leadership, the FP moved to the far right, reflecting Haider's nationalist, anti-immigrant, and anti-EU views. At the same time, the party's share in elections rose from 5% in the 1986 elections to almost 27% in 1999.

Missing image
Haider_busy.JPG
Haider on his way to a press conference

The Freedom Party attracted protest votes and those who desire no association with the other major parties. (See also: Proporz.) The party's mixture of populism, anti-establishment and nationalist themes propagated by its leader steadily gained support over the years.

In 2000, Haider's Freedom Party and the People's Party joined to form a coalition government. This caused widespread outrage both in Austria and the rest of Europe. The heads the government of the other 14 EU members decided to cease cooperation with the Austrian government, as it was felt in many countries that the cordon sanitaire against coalitions with parties considered as right-wing extremists, which had mostly held in Western Europe since 1945, had been breached. For several months, other national leaders refused to shake hands and socialize with members of the Schssel government. This was described as "sanctions" by representatives of the VP and FP, and supporters of the government often blamed social democrats and President Thomas Klestil for them, and questioned their loyalty to the country. The EU leaders soon saw that their measures were counterproductive and returned to normality during the summer of 2000, even though the coalition remained unchanged. (See Austria legislative election, 1999.) Nevertheless it is not easy to measure effects of the "sanctions". Short-term effects seemed to be counterproductive, but it is still possible that "sanctions" later helped to decrease the popularity of Freedom Party and also to prevent such coalitions in other EU countries.

End of February 2000, Haider stepped down from the leadership of the Freedom Party (http://www.guardian.co.uk/austria/article/0,2763,191346,00.html). This was widely seen as a cynical move to appease foreign criticism, as he appeared to continue to control the party from behind the scenes, with Susanne Riess-Passer, the following party chairwoman, a mere puppet.

Haider made a number of statements that seemed to imply support for the ideas of Nazism, and made a point of associating with and praising Waffen-SS veterans. On at least one occassion, he made derogative comments and jokes about Ariel Muzikant, president of the Austrian Jewish Community.

Collapse of the (first) coalition and decline of the Freedom Party

In September 2002, after an special party convention ("Sonderparteitag") in Knittelfeld (Styria), Riess-Passer lost the support of many party members. This meeting is also sometimes considered as a rebellion against the members which are currently involved in the government which was thought to be started but at least supported by Haider. Thus Riess-Passer resigned as Vice Federal Chancellor and Party Chairwoman and with her went Karl-Heinz Grasser, the finance minister, and Peter Westenthaler the head of the Freedom Party's Parliament Club. This resulted in new general elections in November.

They resulted in a landslide victory (42.27% of the vote) of the conservative People's Party led by Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schssel. Haider's Freedom Party, which in 1999 was slightly stronger than Schssel's party, was reduced to 10.16% (http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=1469609) of the vote.

In response, Haider stated that he had demanded that the leader of the FP must step down to allow him to be leader, and on being refused, stated that he would leave federal politics permanently.

In October 2003, a cabinet reshuffle instigated by Haider took place. Haupt had to step down as Vice Chancellor to be replaced by Hubert Gorbach.

On March 7, 2004 the FP won a plurality (42.5%) of the vote in the elections for the Carinthian parliament. On March 31, 2004 Haider was re-elected Governor of Carinthia by the FP and VP members of the state parliament. In Carinthia, a coalition government between Haider's FP and the Carinthian SP was created.

However, outside of Carinthia, Haider's charisma seems to have largely lost its appeal among voters. The FP incurred devastating losses in several regional elections, the European Elections of 2004 and in elections for the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. In each of those elections, it lost between one half to two thirds of their previous voters.

Creation of a new party

In consequence of this, the party, whose chairman was Haider's sister Ursula Haubner, was ridden by internal strife. On April 4, 2005, Haider, Haubner, Vice Chancellor Hubert Gorbach and other leading figures of the FP announced the creation of a new party called Alliance for the Future of Austria (Bndnis Zukunft sterreich — BZ) with Haider as leader. Effectively, this results in a split of the FP in two parties, which may precipitate the collapse of the current coalition government and new elections in Austria.


Preceded by:
Peter Ambrozy
Governor of Carinthia
(First period of office)
1989–1991
Succeeded by:
Christoph Zernatto
Preceded by:
Christoph Zernatto
Governor of Carinthia
(Second period of office)
Since 1999
Succeeded by:
---
Norbert Steger FP Party Chairman
1986–2000
Susanne Riess-Passer

Template:End box

External links

  • Official site (http://www.joerg1.at)
  • Haiderwatch (http://www.smoc.net/haiderwatch/bioen.html) - Haider bio, by opponents (1999)
  • BBC Article (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/464260.stm) Controversy and Joerg Haider (February 2000)
  • Time Magazine (http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/2000/214/haiderquotes.html) Collection of Haider quotes (February 2000)
  • The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/austria/article/0,2763,191391,00.html) "Europe rallies against Haider coalition" (February 2000)
  • The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/austria/article/0,2763,376266,00.html) "Haider embraces SS veterans" (October 2000)
  • The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/austria/article/0,2763,430281,00.html) "Remember Jorg Haider?" (January 2001)
  • Daily Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/08/02/whaid02.xml) "Haider 'will quit' party he founded" (note: headline is incorrect, FP was founded before Haider was born) (February 2001)
  • Anti-Defamation League (http://www.adl.org/backgrounders/joerg_haider.asp) "Joerg Haider - The Rise of an Austrian Extreme Rightist" (updated 2004)de:Jrg Haider

fr:Jrg Haider nl:Jrg Haider no:Jrg Haider

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