The Success of the Freedom Party:
Domestic Political Environment Part III

Jörg Haider had an impact in the Freedom Party that can be compared to Tony Blair′s impact on Labour: He unified, modernised and re-branded the party. With the solid and corrupt political class of the establishment, he found an easy target. To me, this is also the main explanation why the Freedom Party is particularly popular with the younger generation: The young people are "outsiders" and have not found their place in the system yet. As such, they have (actually: we have) to pay the bill for the corruption and the lack of efficiency, lack of competition and lack of liberalism.

Personally, I do not believe that the Freedom Party has a genuine interest in fighting the system. The dilemma is that the political establishment makes a great topic for the opposition; as soon as the Freedom Party changed the sides, though, it started to occupy posts with a pace just like their criticised political enemies had before: Especially within the military, public research facilities, the medical sector (hospitals) and the judicial system, the Freedom Party placed its men in power positions as soon as their had a chance to do so.

Just like in 1848, it is the Burschenschaften who play a key-role providing an intellectual backbone for the movement. As of 2009, half of the Freedom Party delegates in the parliament are members of a Burschenschaft. The Burschenschaften also carry the "ideological" base of the party and are seen as the main source of reactionary elements within the Freedom Party.

Many people in Austria especially people with bad educational background and young people still view the Freedom Party as their best bet against the establishment. Just as I have said in the beginning of this article, I do have a lot of understanding for this view, even more since I have moved to Vienna where the public sector (which equals the Social Democrats) appears to have unlimited powers.

Future of the Freedom Party

As of 2009, the Freedom Party seems to have fully recovered from the blow of the struggle with the BZÖ. Political observers expect it to gain support in the coming years. I expect that British tabloids will once again pull the Nazi-card. Many Austrians will once again be annoyed about that. The political ruling class will once again respond in some way that will save its own neck. Personally, I have little hope for Austria and don′t think that it will develop the things it needs so desperately: A culture of political arguing; a slim administration and liberalised markets; transparency about power distribution especially with respect to the Social Partnership; a sense for competition; and independent, critical media.

My two main hopes for Austria lie with the European Union, which in the past has repeatedly enforced minimum standards in questions of power distribution and political influence in sectors that should be private; and in competition from abroad, especially from Eastern Europe. For decades, Austria has wasted a large share of its potential; with millions of stoked and ambitious Eastern Europeans around the corner, Austria will simply not be able to afford even more waste in the future.

Additionally, I also have a vague hope for a brighter future through new technologies; for example with respect to the media issue: the corrupt National Broadcast, the ORF, is under thorough control of the parties whilst this was disastrous in the past (Austria and Albania were the last countries in Europe to liberalise broadcasting and allow private TV and radio only upon pressure of the EU, by the way), currently there are fewer and fewer people that watch TV. News are gathered from the internet, and media have diversified as now it is much easier for people to double-check information with websites of German or other media corporations from abroad.

Maybe this is the kind of pressure that will guide Austria to a brighter future. For the future of the Freedom Party, I wouldn′t be concerned since 1986, the Freedom Party has grown to one of three big parties and I am sure it will stay there. Regardless of what foreign media think of it.

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