Page last updated at 08:45 GMT, Saturday, 11 October 2008 09:45 UK

Austria's Haider dies in accident


The wreckage of the car Mr Haider was driving

Austrian far-right politician Joerg Haider has been killed in a road accident, police say.

Mr Haider suffered severe head and chest injuries after his car came off the road in Carinthia, his political base.

Police investigating the crash said he had been driving alone.

The 58-year-old was leader of the Alliance for Austria's Future, and was known for his anti-immigration and anti-EU policies.

The Alliance was one of two right-wing parties which did better than expected in general elections last month, fuelling speculation of a possible role in a ruling coalition.

Joerg Haider
1950: Born in Upper Austria
1976: Joins Freedom Party
1986: Elected party's leader
1989: Elected governor of Carinthia
2000: Resigns as party leader
2005: Founds Alliance for Austria's Future

He had reportedly been due to attend his mother's 90th birthday celebrations later in the day.

"For us this is the end of the world," the deputy leader of Mr Haider's Alliance for Austria's Future, Stefan Petzner, told Austrian news agency APA.

Austria's President Heinz Fischer said Mr Haider's death was a "human tragedy", while Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer described him as someone who had shaped Austria's domestic and political landscape over decades, according to the Associated Press news agency.

EU sanctions

Mr Haider was a divisive figure who gained notoriety after he became leader of the Freedom Party in 1986.

In 1991 his term as governor of the province of Carinthia was interrupted, after he made comments praising employment policies of Nazi Germany.

Mr Haider speaking about immigration in September

But he was re-elected in 1999 and 2003.

In 2000 the EU imposed sanctions against Austria in a protest over his party's role in government.

In 2005 Mr Haider left the Freedom Party and founded the Alliance for Austria's Future, which scored its best result so far in elections last month, gaining 11% of the vote.

This was, however, well below the 27% which the Freedom Party won under his leadership in 1999 - a high mark in Mr Haider's electoral career at national level.

"With his passing Austria has lost a great political figure," said Heinz-Christian Strache, who had taken over as leader of the Freedom Party after Mr Haider left.

Obituary: Joerg Haider
11 Oct 08 |  Europe
Country profile: Austria
11 Oct 08 |  Country profiles
The politician who cries wolf
26 Nov 02 |  Europe
Haider's enduring appeal
08 Mar 04 |  Europe
Timeline: Austria
11 Oct 08 |  Country profiles

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