Freedom Party of Austria


Freedom Party of Austria

Infobox Austrian Political Party
party_name = Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs
party_
party_articletitle = Freedom Party of Austria
leader = Heinz-Christian Strache
foundation = 25 March 1949 (VdU)
7 April 1956 (FPÖ)
ideology = Austrian nationalism,
National conservatism,
Conservatism,
Populism
position = right-wing
international = "none" (member of the Liberal International 1979–1993)
european = "none"
europarl = "none"
colours = Blue
headquarters = Theobaldgasse 19/4
A-1060 Vienna
website = [http://www.fpoe.at http://www.fpoe.at]
The Freedom Party of Austria ("Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs", FPÖ) is a political party in Austria. Its current leader is Heinz-Christian Strache. The FPÖ is generally regarded as a populist party and often classified as a nationalist party, although it has its origins in the national-liberal and pan-German traditions. In April 2005 former party leader Jörg Haider and other leading party members seceded from the FPÖ to form a new party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ).

History

Origins

The Freedom Party was founded in 1956 and had its roots in the Pan German movement, which included both elements of liberalism and nationalism. It absorbed the political currents of former parties such as the "Landbund" and the Greater German People's Party of the First Republic. Its immediate predecessor was the Federation of Independents, which had obtained 12% of the vote in the 1949 general election but later collapsed after internal strife.

Even though many of the FPÖ's leading proponents such as Anton Reinthaller and Friedrich Peter were former Nazis, as a third party, it had a broad appeal among voters who felt uncomfortable both with the perceived deference to the Roman Catholic Church of the People's Party and the socialism of the Socialist Party. During the following decades, its adherents included anti-clerical liberals, business representatives striving for more economic liberalism and pan-German nationalists, some of whom were sympathetic to certain Nazi policies. Even today, the lower ranks of the party organisation are largely made up of members of German-nationalist "Studentenverbindungen". However, this has rarely stopped other parties from cooperating with it, for instance Bruno Kreisky's minority government (1970–1971) could survive only because the FPÖ agreed to tolerate it.

In 1980, the FPÖ's liberal wing gained control under the leadership of Norbert Steger, who entered into a coalition government with the Social Democrats in 1983. Since results of local elections and polls showed that this threatened the party's existence, discontent with the party leadership grew, which enabled Jörg Haider to take over the party leadership at the Innsbruck convention of 1986 with the help of the party's German-nationalist wing. Social Democratic Chancellor Franz Vranitzky subsequently announced a fresh election and then entered into a coalition with the People's Party.

Jörg Haider

In 1970 Jörg Haider became the leader of the FPÖ youth movement, where he was perceived to be a liberal. As a federal deputy in Carinthia he gained some notoriety and popularity in attacking linguistic privileges of the Slovene minority. Haider rose rapidly through the party ranks, becoming party leader in 1986.

The FPÖ attracted since then more and more protest votes and those who desired no association with the other major parties. The party's mixture of populism and anti-establishment themes propagated by its aggressive leader steadily gained support over the years, reaching about 27% of the vote in the 1999 general election.

Jörg Haider became Governor of Carinthia in 1989 for the first time, but had to resign in 1991 following a remark in the regional parliament. A speaker in the parliament called Haider's plan of reducing unemployment benefits a "forced work placement reminiscent of Nazi policies." Haider replied by saying: "It would not be like the Third Reich, because the Third Reich developed a proper employment policy, which your government in Vienna has not once produced." He was appointed Deputy Governor of Carinthia the week after he had to resign and regained the post of Governor in 1999 and has held it since then.

In 1993 most of the remaining liberals within the FPÖ, including four members of the National Council (lower house of the parliament), seceded from the party to found the Liberal Forum. This party managed to remain in parliament until 1999. Following the split with the liberal wing, the FPÖ left the Liberal International in 1993. The Liberal Forum party took over that membership in its place.

The coalition government

In the 1999 general election, the FPÖ received 27% of the votes, more than in any election before; they even beat the People's Party by a small margin (about 400 votes, with 4.6 million Austrians voting), which had until then always taken first or second place in national elections.

In early 2000, the FPÖ joined a coalition government with Wolfgang Schüssel's People's Party. The Freedom Party had to take a junior part in the coalition, as otherwise the ÖVP would have continued their coalition with the SPÖ. There was a great degree of outrage both within the country and internationally. The heads of 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 example, for several months, other national leaders refused to shake hands and socialize with members of the Schüssel government. This was described as "sanctions" by representatives of the ÖVP and FPÖ, and supporters of the government often blamed the 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.

Contextually with the formation of the Schüssel government, Haider stepped down from the leadership of the Freedom Party. This was widely seen as a cynical move to appease foreign criticism, as he was alleged to control the party from behind the scenes. He retained the governorship of Carinthia.

Even though the FPÖ members of the government and the party leadership at that time consisted largely of politicians such as Susanne Riess-Passer and Karl-Heinz Grasser, whose career had so far depended entirely on Haider's populism, Haider himself appeared to be increasingly discontent with the situation, as his party began to lose in regional and local elections, since it was no longer in the position to gain votes by criticizing the government. This caused a dispute within the party, which escalated at a special party convention at Knittelfeld that caused three leading members of the government to resign (so-called Knittelfeld Putsch).

The 2002 general election resulted in a landslide victory (42.3% of the vote) for the People's Party. The Freedom Party, which had been stronger than the People's Party in 1999, was reduced to 10.2% of the vote, less than half its previous share. Nevertheless, the coalition government of the People's Party and Freedom Party was renewed in February 2003.

In September 2003 regional elections, notably in Upper Austria, also brought heavy losses, with the Greens for the first time receiving more votes than the Freedom Party. The 2004 European Parliament election reduced the Freedom Party's share of the vote to a mere 6%. Similar results were achieved at several state and local elections. The FPÖ seemed to have largely lost its appeal to voters, except in Carinthia, where it gained 42.5% in the state election of 7 March 2004. However, that success, most likely resting entirely on Haider's personal charisma, appeared to be rapidly losing its effectiveness in the rest of the country.

ecession of Jörg Haider and the BZÖ

In early 2005 the FPÖ was increasingly ridden by internal strife between populist and nationalist factions. Its bargaining position within the coalition government has already been considered to be low by many political observers for some time, which has allowed Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel to pursue largely policies favoured by his own party.

On 4 April 2005 several prominent party members (among them former chairman Jörg Haider, his sister and current Chairwoman Ursula Haubner, Vice Chancellor Hubert Gorbach, as well as most of the 18 representatives in Parliament) left the party and founded a new party called Alliance for the Future of Austria. Regional party organizations seem to be split between the two factions. In Haider's stronghold Carinthia the old FPÖ completely became an organization of the BZÖ. Austria's chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel immediately changed his coalition with the FPÖ into a cooperation with the BZÖ. On 23 April Heinz-Christian Strache was elected as new chairman of the party, following Hilmar Kabas, who had taken this position temporarily after Ursula Haubner's resignation.

In the first election where FPÖ and BZÖ competed against each other (in Styria on 2 October 2005), the FPÖ lost all its seats in the regional parliament, but still obtained a far larger number of votes (4.6%) than Haider's BZÖ (1.7%). It was reduced to a share of 5.7% in the Burgenland state election one week later, where the BZÖ did not run.

However, the FPÖ did reasonably well in the Vienna elections on 23 October, where Heinz-Christian Strache was the leading candidate and ran a campaign directed strongly against immigration. It took a share of 14.9% (down from more than 20%), while the BZÖ gained only 1.2%. As a result, the BZÖ has been all but eliminated in all states except for Carinthia and the federal level.

The FPÖ did reasonably well in the 2006 general election and gained a further 3 seats (21 in total). However the Greens gained 4 seats and became tied in seats as the third largest party on absentee votes. The BZÖ only barely made it past the 4% threshold needed to enter parliament and received 7 seats. The subsequent "grand coalition" between SPÖ and ÖVP left both parties in opposition.

Platform

The platform of the Freedom Party is based on five main points [http://www.fpoe.at/index.php?id=393] :
* No accession of Turkey into the European Union
* No intrusion of EU policy in Austria
* No increase in the Austrian contribution to the EU
* Restrict Austrian citizenship law
* Stop the misuse of the asylum system

Popular support

Leadership

The chart below shows a timeline of the FPÖ chairpersons and the Chancellors of Austria since 1956. The bar on the left shows the FPÖ's party Chairperson ("Bundesparteiobleute", abbreviated as "CP"), while the bar on the right side shows the Chancellor with the colour of the party affiliation. The last names of the respective chancellors are shown, the Roman numeral stands for the cabinets ("Bundesregierung", abbreviated as "Govern.").

ImageSize = width:400 height:500PlotArea = width:350 height:450 left:50 bottom:50

DateFormat = yyyyPeriod = from:1956 till:2005TimeAxis = orientation:verticalScaleMajor = unit:year increment:4 start:1956

# there is no automatic collision detection,
# so shift texts up or down manually to avoid overlap

Colors= id:FPÖ value:blue

Define $dx = 25 # shift text to right side of barDefine $dy = -4 # adjust height

PlotData=

bar:CP color:red width:25 mark:(line,white) align:left fontsize:S from:1956 till:1958 shift:($dx,$dy) color:FPÖ text:Anton Reinthaller from:1958 till:1978 shift:($dx,$dy) color:FPÖ text:Friedrich Peter from:1978 till:1980 shift:($dx,$dy) color:FPÖ text:Alexander Götz from:1980 till:1986 shift:($dx,$dy) color:FPÖ text:Norbert Steger from:1986 till:2000 shift:($dx,$dy) color:FPÖ text:Jörg Haider from:2000 till:2002 shift:($dx,-18) color:FPÖ text:Susanne Riess-Passer from:2002 till:2002 shift:($dx,-17) color:FPÖ text:Mathias Reichold from:2002 till:2004 shift:($dx,-18) color:FPÖ text:Herbert Haupt from:2004 till:2005 shift:($dx,-23) color:FPÖ text:Ursula Haubner from:2005 till:2005 shift:($dx,-19) color:FPÖ text:Hilmar Kabas from:2005 till:end shift:($dx,-10) color:FPÖ text:Heinz-Christian Strache

bar:Govern. color:red width:25 mark:(line,white) align:left fontsize:7

from:1956 till:1958 shift:($dx,$dy) color:ÖVP text:Raab I from:1958 till:1959 shift:($dx,-3) color:ÖVP text:Raab II from:1959 till:1960 shift:($dx,$dy) color:ÖVP text:Raab III from:1960 till:1961 shift:($dx,-2) color:ÖVP text:Raab IV from:1961 till:1963 shift:($dx,$dy) color:ÖVP text:Gorbach I from:1963 till:1964 shift:($dx,$dy) color:ÖVP text:Gorbach II from:1964 till:1966 shift:($dx,$dy) color:ÖVP text:Klaus I from:1966 till:1970 shift:($dx,$dy) color:ÖVP text:Klaus II from:1970 till:1971 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Kreisky I from:1971 till:1975 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Kreisky II from:1975 till:1979 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Kreisky III from:1979 till:1983 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Kreisky IV from:1983 till:1986 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Sinowatz from:1986 till:1987 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Vranitzky I from:1987 till:1990 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Vranitzky II from:1990 till:1994 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Vranitzky III from:1994 till:1996 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Vranitzky IV from:1996 till:1997 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Vranitzky V from:1997 till:2000 shift:($dx,$dy) color:SPÖ text:Klima from:2000 till:2003 shift:($dx,$dy) color:ÖVP text:Schüssel I from:2003 till:end shift:($dx,$dy) color:ÖVP text:Schüssel II

References

*cite book
author = Wodak, Ruth; Pelinka, Anton
year = 2002
title = The Haider Phenomenon in Austria
publisher = Transaction Publishers
location = New Brunswick
id = ISBN 0-7658-0116-7

*cite journal
author = Geden, Oliver
year = 2005
title = The Discursive Representation of Masculinity in the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ)
journal = Journal of Language and Politics
volume = 4
issue = 3
pages = 399–422
doi = 10.1075/jlp.4.3.04ged

*cite journal
author = Luther, Kurt R.
year = 2003
title = The Self-Destruction of a Right-Wing Populist Party? The Austrian Parliamentary Election of 2002
journal = West European Politics
volume = 26
issue = 2
pages = 136–152
doi = 10.1080/01402380512331341141

*cite journal
author = McGann, Anthony J.; Kitschelt, Herbert
year = 2005
title = The Radical Right in The Alps
journal = Party Politics
volume = 11
issue = 2
pages = 147–171
doi = 10.1177/1354068805049734

ee also

*Swiss People's Party
*Alliance for the Future of Austria

External links

* [http://www.fpoe.at/ Official website]
* [http://www.photoglobe.info/ebooks/austria/cstudies_austria_0139.html Country Studies - Austria]


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