BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Programmes: Correspondent  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Correspondent Friday, 27 October, 2000, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
The Haider Show
The Haider Show
"The Haider Show" by Klaus Ottomeyer, adapted by Thomas Paster.
The Haider Show will be shown on BBC 2 at 1850 BST on Saturday 28th October. Frederick Baker reports on the man that is a political phenomenon.

I thought actor politicians died out with Ronald Reagan's retirement, but no, as Haider's biographer Christa Zochling told me. "In his youth Haider was an outstanding actor."

Though he chose to go into politics many say Haider never really left his acting days behind. After many years of Haider watching, Klaus Ottomeyer, Professor of Social Psychology at Klagenfurt University says that Haider's politics are better called "The Haider Show", as he calls his recently published study. "Haider's role play has the function of supporting people with a weak ego".

Haider has managed to increase his parties share from circa 3% in 1986, when he took over as leader, to 27% of the vote at the last election in October 1999.

Frederick Baker
The script of the Haider Show is the speciality of Professor Walter Oetsch from Linz University. According to the communications specialist: "The language Haider uses is the language of battle."

For Oetsch, Haider is a demagogue, whose success is not so much down to his political policies, but to his communication skills. Haider has managed to increase his parties share from circa 3% in 1986, when he took over as leader, to 27% at the last election in October 1999.

Watching the party conference in Klagenfurt this year I was puzzled by the fact that though, the party's vote has increased dramatically, the party membership has not kept pace with their success at the polls.

Things became clearer after reading Oetsch's book "Haider Light- a Handbook for Demagogues" where he analyses the party as a sect in which small numbers are easier for their leader or "guru" to control.

Give Joerg Haider the chance to dress up for his "Haider Show" the betting is, that he'll choose a Robin Hood costume. He sees himself as the 'people's advocate' and his voters as 'the little people'.

It is the role that gets him the most votes, because his target is the "Proporz" system.

That is the corrupt Semi-feudal division of the country between the Blacks and the Reds, as the Conservatives and the Social Democrats are known.

Jobs, houses and money are not divided according to merit, but party membership.

Jorg Haider
Haider dressed as Robin Hood
As an outsider - Haider could present himself as the only credible reformer: "We want to storm the red and black fortresses, let down the drawbridge and bring the people into the castle. At long last we can fly the blue flag of freedom from the battlements".

For Professor Ottomeyer , Haider "is not a very noble Robin Hood, if you look at him closely, it's a rather sadistic Robin Hood to whom people can delegate their own feelings of revenge and anger without doing anything themselves.

"It's like the way we love to sit in front of the television in the evening and watch a hero coming into the town and sorting out the corrupt city fathers or the mafia".

Haider's most famous showdown was a TV debate with the former Social Democratic Chancellor Franz Vranitzky.

Vranitzky is what Hubertus Czernin calls in his book of the same name 'The Haider Maker".

Though he was the leader of the traditional workers party, he had forgotten how to speak their language . Under Vrnanitzky the Social Democrats had moved to the right. They forgot their working class roots and so left a vacuum for Haider to fill.

Haider scored with his working class voters by revealing the scandalously high income of a red party boss. In the last election Haider got the applause he was looking for with the largest working class vote of any party!

Below Nicky Bolster the producer of the programme gives an account of visiting a working class Haider strong hold.

Until I went to Vienna to make a film about Joerg Haider, leader of the Austria's right wing populist Freedom Party, I imagined him as an unreconstructed neo-Nazi, a charismatic leader attracting the support of skinheads in jackboots.

In our search to interview typical Haider voters we went to Favoriten, a multicultural working-class Viennese suburb. Until recently Favoriten was a stronghold of the Social Democrats. But disillusioned voters have now deserted them in their droves.

Jorg Haider
A Political Phenomenon
Many people we met on the street were Haider fans - and I use the word 'fans' deliberately.

He is perceived more like a pop star than a politician. Although he is 50, he cultivates a young sporty image, running marathons, climbing mountains and even singing in pop concerts.

He is every bit the trend-setter.

With a few tips from Austria expert Frederick Baker, the film's reporter/director, I was soon able to pick out Haider's fans from the crowd.

I could not have been more wrong about their stereotypical look.

Joerg Haider is super...calling him a Nazi was absolute rubbish

Monika Hoberstorfer
Haider woos these people with his well marketed 'special offer' politics: cheap petrol said to have been procured through his controversial friendship with Colonel Gadaffi, and "the baby cheque", a lump sum to new mothers enabling them to stay at home with their children - but only available to Austrian citizens.

"Joerg Haider is super," said young mother Monika Hoberstorfer, summing up the general mood.

Haider's parents were Nazis during the Third Reich and were made to suffer during the post-war de-nazification process. But our young mum wasn't bothered by this. Calling him a Nazi was absolute rubbish, she said.

Edith Adamek
Edith Adamek, a local Freedom Party Councilor
Edith Adamek, a local Freedom Party councillor, now devotes all her free time to Haider.

The day she heard him speaking in the local shopping centre changed her life: "After that I followed Haider everywhere. I was at nearly every election rally, all over the country. I did it with love, really with so much love."

Favoriten has a large immigrant population, many from the former Eastern bloc. With four borders with former communist countries, it's easy to see why immigration has become such a political hot potato in Austria since the Iron Curtain fell.

Haider is against letting more people in until those already there have become fully integrated. His party plays on the fears of unskilled Austrians that foreigners will do their jobs for a quarter of the wage.

"Immigration really is a big problem here in Vienna," says Edith Adamek. "Sometimes it is really as if you were not in your own country any more."

Jorg Haider
Haider the trend-setter
Frau Adamek and Monika Hoberstorfer are a far cry from swastika-toting neo-Nazis.

They are products of an Austria which was looking for something new after 30 years of a social democrat-led coalition government, which was no longer working for the man on the street.

Joerg Haider stepped into this vacuum with buckets full of charisma and a brand of non-political populist politics that sells.

Reporter/Director: Frederick Baker

Producer: Nicky Bolster

Series Producer: Farah Durrani

Editor: Fiona Murch

Click here for transcripts

Links to more Correspondent stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Correspondent stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |