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Saturday, 21 September, 2002, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Austria's far-right picks new leader
Joerg Haider
Joerg Haider stayed away from the party conference

Austria's far-right Freedom Party has elected a new leader, Mathias Reichhold, ahead of general elections in November.

The move follows a bitter conflict in the party which brought down the coalition government.

Mr Reichhold has a difficult task ahead.

The deep divisions in the party have sent support plummeting.

Mathias Reichhold
Reichhold will have to heal a deeply divided party
Recent polls put them at under 15%, down from the 27% result achieved in the last general election in 1999.

And this time the party has to cope without one of its greatest campaigners - the fiery former leader Joerg Haider, conspicuously absent from Saturday's party conference in the eastern town of Oberwart.

It was Mr Haider's power struggle with the party leader and Austrian vice-chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer which brought down the government.

Last week Mr Haider looked set to take over the party once again, only to withdraw unexpectedly.

Mr Reichhold has promised to bring unity to the Freedom Party, but it remains to be seen if it's possible to reconcile the moderates with the extreme populist elements in the party.

Analysts predict that Mr Haider may well return to the party helm in the event of a severe election defeat.

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