History of the Freedom Party - 2006 to 2008:
Freedom Party vs. Jörg Haider′s new Baby BZÖ

In the national elections of 2006, the Freedom Party won 11 percent of the votes, the BZÖ only 4 percent just enough to gain mandates. After only two years, the government′s grand coalition split up and elections were held in 2008. To the great surprise of international and Austrian media alike, Haider returned to federal politics with a custom-made campaign focussing fully on him as the saviour of Austria.

The result was a landslide victory for Haider in the 2008 elections: His party grew to 10.7 percent from the previous 4; the Freedom Party was also among the big winners and won 17.5 percent of the votes, from previous 11. Together, one third of the Austrian voters had decided to support right-wing parties once again, international media could run their Austria-fallen-to-the-Nazis spiel.

In the past, such medial developments had only caused resistance among the Austrian population, and here once again I sense that most people in the country show increasing solidarity with the right-wing the more "foreign intervention" they fear. However, this is by far not enough to explain the lasting and extraordinary success of the right wing in Austria.

Right Wing since 2008: Jörg Haider′s Death & Possible Unity

For the future, most political observers in Austria expect increasing collaboration of the Freedom Party and the BZÖ. This might become easier since Jörg Haider′s death in a car accident in Carinthia soon after the elections in autumn of 2008. The Freedom Party is now again the "driving force" behind the right wing and the BZÖ is only regionally important in Carinthia. The full potential of the right wing can only come into action through unity between the two parties and it is likely that this will work in some way once personal disliking will be overcome. I will later come back to the question of the future of the Freedom Party at the end of this article.

So that much about the "success story" of the Freedom Party and the right wing for now; but how can it be explained? I think that there are four levels in which you can approach the question: The level of individuals; the transnational level looking at ideologies; the systemic level of anti-Austrian reactions abroad and how they shaped the Austrian′s perception of the Freedom Party; and, in my view most importantly, the domestic level of Austrian 20th century politics, dominated by an effective monopoly of the two centre-parties and a corrupt political class.

Freedom Party Special - page: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9

back to "culture, society & politics"

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