From beyond the grave, the ‘Austria First’ Jorg Haider effect

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 16, 2017

Jorg Haider on magazine covers

So what’s new in Austria? In December, it missed electing Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party as president. (The margin of defeat was less than 10 percentage points).

In the 1999 general election, the Freedom Party led by the late Jorg Haider, won 27 per cent of the national vote. This was more than it had ever done before. In the election held on Sunday, Oct 15, 2017, the Freedom Party is estimated to have won 27.1 per cent of the vote. Clearly, the Freedom Party’s support base has remained steady across the span of nearly 40 years ago.

The basics about the Freedom Party are worth noting:

** Its first leader was former Nazi functionary and SS officer Anton Reinthaller.

** It participated in government in 1983.

** Jorg Haider, the charismatic perma-tanned politician who took ‘Austria First’ as a slogan long before Donald Trump, is seen to have turned the Freedom Party towards right-wing populism.

So here’s what’s new about Austria today:

** Sebastian Kurz, 31, will be prime minister and thereby, the youngest leader of any nation in the world.

** Mr Kurz’s centre-right People’s Party is likely to go into alliance with the Freedom Party.

** The Freedom Party accuses Mr Kurz of snitching its ideological clothes on immigration.

This is the Haider effect from beyond the grave.