History of the Freedom Party - 1986 to 1999:
Re-Alignment of Freedom Party under Jörg Haider

The young Jörg Haider became the new chairman of the Freedom Party and started to transform the peculiar mix of old Nazis, nationalist intellectuals, liberal-patriotic entrepreneurs and descendants of German victims of the post-WWII ethnic cleansings of Eastern Europe. Jörg Haider created the Freedom Party as we know it: A populist, modern, young and trendy movement, an emotional, dynamic and positive party with a lot of momentum.

Strangely enough if you look at this image, Haider also abandoned the liberal wing in the party. This is where the behaviour of the Austrians with respect to the Freedom Party started to change: From election to election on communal, regional or national level, the Haider Freedom Party gained and gained. The former dwarf now suddenly turned into a serious player within Austria and media abroad started to discover the Haider as their new darling-Nazi usually without understanding too much of the issue.

The peak of the Haider-Freedom-Party was reached in 1999, when they secured almost 27 percent of the votes at the national elections and caused the traditional centre-block-parties a devastating defeat. This was a particularly shocking event for the conservative People′s Party, who came third after the Social Democrats and the Freedom Party. Since the Social Democrats categorically refused any political collaboration with the Freedom Party ever since Haider had seized power, the conservatives could use their position to gain the office of the chancellor: They formed a coalition with the Freedom Party.

Due to various reasons, both domestic (resistance of the president) and international (resistance of the EU), Haider himself did not take any office in the federal government. Instead, he became governor of the southern province of Carinthia, an office he had held before and lost due to comments that were appreciative of Nazi employment policies. The years that followed 1999 were a turning point for the history of the Freedom Party: Haider continued to pull the anti-centralist card of an opposition man, with the crucial difference that now he criticised members of his own party.

2002 to 2005: Split of the Freedom Party & Crisis

As a result of Haider′s continued criticism, several government officials of the Freedom Party resigned from their offices and cancelled their party membership in 2002. This ended the government coalition and national elections were held in Austria once again. The Freedom Party was dwarfed to a mere 10 percent. Comparably disastrous followed at the level of communal and EU elections, and now Haider felt a need to return from Carinthia to take over the federal business of the Freedom Party once again.

Together with his sister Ursula Haubner, who had been nominal chair of the Freedom Party for a few months by then, Haider gathered some of his oldest allies and founded a new party, the "Union for the Future of Austria" (Bündnis Zukunft Österreich or BZÖ). Against Haiders expectation, most party officials stayed with the "old" Freedom Party", which was overtaken by Heinz-Christian Strache. Only in Carinthia most Freedom Party members changed the lines.

In the following years, both Freedom Party and BZÖ were busy establishing administrative facilities and fighting over the heritage of the "old" Freedom Party. Things did not work out the way Haider had imagined them: Whilst the Freedom Party showed signs of recovery soon after 2005, Haider′s BZÖ gained enough support to be represented in the parliament, but was generally a rather regional party for Carinthia.

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Jörg Haider, the Freedom Party & Austria

Intro - German Nationalism since 1848 & Freedom Party 1949 to 1986 - 1986 to 1999: Haider's Freedom Party - 2006 to 2008: Split & Crisis - Success Analysis: Individuals (Haider) & Society since 1980 - Success Analysis: Systemic Support - Success Analysis: Domestic Causes - Domestic Causes, Part II - Domestic Causes, Part III

Further Reading

Official Website of the Freedom Party of Austria

Wikipedia on the Austrian Freedom Party

Wikipedia on Politics in Austria

The Economist's Obituary for Jörg Haider



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