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Haider effect launch BZ to Carinthia landslide

By David R. Hill

It was a dramatic Sunday for Austrias western provinces with the Alliance for the Future of Austria party (BZ) defying the doom mongers to claim a landslide Victory in Carinthia, and Social Democrats (SP) pipping the Peoples party (VP) to the post in Salzburg.

With the death of firebrand governor Jrg Haider last October, critics had predicted the BZ֒s iron grip on Carinthia to slip but they came home with an astonishing 45.25 per cent of the vote.

Just a week before the election, pollsters had the BZ tied neck and neck with the SP, who before Haiders rise to prominence had been dominant in the province.

Political analysts had observed that the Carinthia result was impossible to predict as it all depended on how strongly the province had identified with Haider. But the 40 per cent of voters still undecided at that point appear to have swung heavily towards the BZ, suggesting either that Haider was not as central to the partys success as many had thought.

BZ Carinthia leader Gerhard Drfler dedicated his partys win to its late leader: "This is also a victory for Jrg Haider."

As she handed a framed photo of her deceased husband to Drfler, Haiders widow Claudia said: "I am really impressed with the result. It is a major acknowledgment of my husbands work and of his politics."

SP Carinthia leader Reinhart Rohr however believed the result showed Carinthia had voted for the BZ in remembrance of their beloved former governor.

"The results clearly show that a lot of people have voted in memory of Jrg haider," he said, continuing:

"Before we can talk about a crisis in the SP we first need to analyze the individual results and see where there were problems and what the causes were, then we can look at our path for the future."

The SP was left nursing its biggest ever margin loss in the province. Coming in second with 28.64 per cent of the vote, the party was down 9.76 per cent on the provinces last election in 2004. Rohr was reluctant to talk about a possible resignation though, stating: "Reinhart Rohr is not somebody who jumps ship when times get hard."

The pollsters had had an easier time predicting the Salzburg result. The SP were favourites to claim a second successive victory in the province, which traditionally has been black (VP). But few had predicted such a close battle with the VP coming in as runners up just 3.3 per cent behind the Democrats.

The Freedom party (FP) were arguably the biggest winners in Salzburg though, claiming third place with 13.23 per cent of the vote, at the top end of the pollsters predicted 7-16 per cent.

SP Salzburg leader Gabi Burgstaller was aware how much the VP cut into her partys margin. "Of course I am happy we have remained number one, but on the other hand there are our considerable loses to consider," she said.

Burgstaller said that they would start coalition talks with the VP on Monday, and they were now her priority. "I am of the same opinion I was before the election, we want to start talks immediately with the second strongest party in the election," she said.

Burgstaller appeared to reject the idea of a coalition with the Freedom party. "Even if a red-blue coalition were in theory possible, the first point of call for discussions could only be with the VP and [VP Salzburg leader] Wilfried Haslauer."

Results:

Salzburg

Social Democrats (SP) - 39.5%, down 5.5% (on 2004 election)
Peoples Party (VP) - 36.21%, down 1.7%.
Freedom Party (FP) - 13.23%, down 4.5%.
Greens - 7.24%, down 0.8%.
Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZ) - 3.76 % (Didn't exist in 2004)

Carinthia

BZ - 45%, up 6% (before split from Freedom party)
SP - 28.8%, down 10%.
VP - 16.7%, up 5%
Greens - 5%, down 1.7%.

Austrian Times


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