October 11, 2008
Jörg Haider, Austria’s definig populist politician has died in a car accident this morning.
Haider had been probably the best-known politician of his country. As a chairman of the once small Freedom Party (FPÖ) between 1986-2000 he formed a strong, populist movement which received 29% of the vote in the 1999 elections. Austria came under a diplomatic boycott when he entered moved his party into a governing coalition with the centre-right. Later his fortunes were reverted, he split from his party and started another one, BZÖ, which proplled him into the governor seat in his Bundesland, Carinthia, and provided to be a successful platform for an unexpected comeback in the recent 2008 national elections.
Haider was an ultimately populist politician, who could scare the Austrian establishment with his magic connection to the ordinary people and the ability to collect vast numbers of protest votes. Although his position on Austria’s place in Europe and the world, its connection to the Nazi past and his messages on immigration looked very fearful at moments, eventually he become probably one the most stable fixture in Austrian politics in the last three decades. Like many successful populist, he was very loud in opposition and suprisingly pragmatic iin executive power.
He was driving his car early in the morning the celebrate his mother’s 90th birthday when his car slipped off the road, killing Mr. Haider at the age of 58. His sudden departure from Austrian politics will have a major impact in the party system as he personally could collect 10-20 percent of the vote of mainly working class people alienated from the establishment. It is rather unclear what his party’s deputies and his voters will represent in the future.Author : Dániel Antal