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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 10:59 GMT
Haider withdraws offer to quit
Joerg Haider
Haider: Resignation offer had been greeted with scepticism
Maverick far-right Austrian politician, Joerg Haider, has said he will remain in politics, despite the disastrous performance of his Freedom Party in Sunday's general election.


My party friends did not accept this [resignation] because they believe... I should continue

Joerg Haider
His decision followed a six-hour meeting with senior members of his party, and means he will not step down as governor of the Carinthia region despite offering his resignation.

"I accept personally much of the responsibility for the bad [election] results," he told the Austria Press Agency.

"Thus a resignation would have been the logical consequence.

"But my party friends did not accept this because they believe my Carinthian way is good and I should continue."

'Fill of politics'

Mr Haider said on Monday that he would offer to resign from his governor's post, saying he was "deeply hurt" by what he saw as an "expression of distrust toward me" following his party's poor electoral performance.

The Freedom Party - which was part of the outgoing coalition government - lost two-thirds of its former supporters, mainly to the conservative People's Party of Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.

Mr Schuessel was given the go-ahead by President Thomas Klestil on Tuesday to begin negotiations on forming a new coalition government.

Mr Klestil said he wanted a government with a "broad majority" in parliament to be formed "as soon as possible".

The Freedom Party is still seen as a potential coalition partner, but Mr Schuessel said he was also open to talks with the Social Democrats and the Greens.

Scepticism

Mr Haider gave up the party leadership in May 2000 after the European Union greeted the presence of the Freedom Party in government with horror. His deputy Susanne Riess-Passer - who was seen as more moderate - took over as head of the party.

But he kept a power base in his home region of Carinthia, and made a public drama of his on-off plans to return to national politics, while the party became bogged down in bitter in-fighting.

Ms Riess-Passer, now deposed from the party leadership, put the blame for Sunday's result firmly on the shoulders of Mr Haider.

Mr Haider's about-face on the issue of his resignation will not surprise many of his detractors, given Mr Haider's reputation for changing his mind:

  • In 1988, Mr Haider made his first threat to resign, complaining that other party members were not pulling their weight, but stayed on
  • In 1992, he threatened to withdraw from national politics, standing by colleague Andreas Moelzer over controversial comments on immigration, but got his way and stayed
  • In 1998, he said he would only stay on as party leader if his colleagues got back their "fire of enthusiasm" - and stayed. Later that year he threatened to set up a breakaway party, but by January 1999 was back on board
  • In 2000, after the Freedom Party joined the People's Party in government, he finally stepped down as party leader, making way for Ms Riess-Passer, saying he didn't want to be a "shadow chancellor"
  • In 2002, he withdrew from the coalition committee after criticism of a trip to Iraq. In the run-up to the elections, he fell out with Ms Reiss-Passer's leadership and, after a lot of coming and going, promised a return to the top - then changed his mind.

See also:

25 Nov 02 | Europe
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25 Nov 02 | Europe
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