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In 2005, he created a new party, the BZÖ, but only assumed the leadership just before the September 2008 elections. In those elections, Haider’s party and its rival far-right Freedom Party, headed by Heinz-Christian Strache, between them surpassed even their 1999 performance-winning 29 per cent of the vote. Much to the despair of the Left, Haider had bounced back yet again. He compared himself to Lazarus: risen from the dead. Youth had flocked to him. The over-16s had been enfranchised. It is estimated that just under half the under-30s voted for the Right. It is interesting to note that Hitler, too, had lowered the voting age in 1938; pre-war Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg had increased it in an effort to keep the Nazis out. In Austria, certain observers described Haider as an Alltagsfaschist (small-town fascist), an insidious rabble-rouser who incited provincial Austrians to hate strangers. Was he a fascist at all? Most of his utterances would have found echoes in the right wing of the British Conservative party.

Austrian Haiderphobia was in part a reflection of their own problems in confronting the past. Many Austrians still cling to their status as Hitler’s “first victims”. Haider personified everything the bien-pensant Austrians wanted to forget — chiefly their flirtation with Hitler. That his sexual inclinations were utterly reasonable was the very reason they were never mentioned: he was not allowed to be reasonable. Haider’s historical importance was that he was occasionally able to unbalance the soporific seesaw of Austrian post-war governments. He was the most successful Austrian politician since Kreisky, but unlike Kreisky, he burned his wings.

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brianson
December 4th, 2008
2:12 PM
It's not like we don't have our share of unfaithful politicians with various substance abuse problems, but...wow! I'll let you in on a secret Austria, across the pond you kinda' have a reputation for loopy politicians and this guy didn't help. Xenophobe or not.

Richard Murphy
November 30th, 2008
7:11 PM
Interesting piece, but a few factual errors. The Austrian People's Party is the OeVP, not VPOe. And Susanne Riess-Passer was Vice-Chancellor, not foreign minister.

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