Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Political parties Elections
The Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, abbreviated to FPÖ) is a right-wing political party in Austria. Its current leader is Heinz-Christian Strache. The FPÖ is generally regarded as a populist party and often classed as a german-nationalist party. It promises stronger anti-immigration laws, stricter law enforcement and more funds for families.
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).

Origins and history

Main article: Jörg Haider Jörg Haider
In the 1999 parliamentary election, the FPÖ received 27% of the votes, more than in any election before; they even beat the ÖVP (the conservative "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 ÖVP. 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 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.
In February 2000, 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).
In the November 2002, general elections in Austria resulted in a landslide victory (42.27% 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 10.16% of the vote, less than half its previous share. Nevertheless, the coalition government of the People's Party and Freedom Party (now with 79+18=97 seats in Austria's 183-seat parliament, down from 52+52=104 in 1999) was renewed in February 2003.
In September 2003, regional elections, notably in Upper Austria, also brought heavy losses, with the Austrian Green Party for the first time receiving more votes than the Freedom Party. The elections to the European Parliament in June 2004 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 elections of March 7, 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.

Freedom Party of Austria The coalition government
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 April 4, 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" (Bündnis Zukunft Österreich" — BZÖ). 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 April 23, 2005, 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 (state of Styria, October 2, 2005), the FPÖ lost all its seats in the regional parliament (Landtag), 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 elections one week later, where the BZÖ did not run.
However, the FPÖ did reasonably well in the Vienna elections on October 23, 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 only gained 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 elections and gained a further 3 seats (21 in total). However the Greens gained 4 seats and, tied on seats the Greens became the 3rd largest party on absentee votes. The BZÖ only just made it past the 4% threshold needed to enter parliament and received 7 seats.
The Grand Coalition between SPÖ and ÖVP leaves both far-right parties in opposition.

Secession of Jörg Haider and the BZÖ
The platform of the Freedom Party is based on five main points [1]:

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.

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