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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 April, 2005, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Haider party launched in Austria
Joerg Haider in Salzburg
Not all Freedom Party MPs have joined the new party
Far-right politician Joerg Haider has launched a new party in Austria after a split in the Freedom Party he once led which threatened the ruling coalition.

The new Alliance for Austria's Future elected Mr Haider as its leader in Salzburg, and it looks set to remain in office with the majority conservatives.

All Freedom Party cabinet ministers have defected to the new party.

The split came after the party, whose extreme views prompted EU sanctions on Austria, lost much of its support.

A recent opinion poll gave the Alliance 5% support and just 3% to the rump Freedom Party. Under Mr Haider, the Freedom Party had taken nearly 27% in the 1999 general election.

The BBC's Bethany Bell notes that while Mr Haider showed he still has considerable personal appeal with voters when he was re-elected as governor of the southern province of Corinthia last year, surveys nationwide suggest many Austrians mistrust him.

Election call

Of the Freedom party's 18 members in parliament, nine have reportedly joined the Alliance while seven remain with the old party and two are undecided.

Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, leader of the conservative People's Party, said he had received sufficient guarantees to work with the new Alliance.

However, opposition parties are demanding a new election, with the Social Democrats arguing that Austria, which is due to assume leadership of the European Union for six months on 1 January 2006, cannot afford an unstable government.

"Imagine what would happen if the government imploded just before or, worse, during Austria's presidency," Social Democrat leader Alfred Gusenbauer said at a party conference in Vienna.

Austria is not due to hold its next general election until next year.

In a two-hour speech in Salzburg, Mr Haider justified the creation of the new party, saying that "internal criticism" had hindered the success of the Freedom Party, AFP news agency reports.

The 564 delegates present also elected Vice-Chancellor Hubert Gorbach to a party leadership post.

Mr Haider, who won notoriety for his comments on Austria's Nazi past, is not a member of the coalition government himself.

Haider's enduring appeal
08 Mar 04 |  Europe
Timeline: Austria
13 Apr 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Austria
13 Apr 05 |  Country profiles

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