The Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, abbreviated to FPÖ) is an Austrian political party usually associated with the name of Jörg Haider. The FPÖ is generally regarded as a populist party and often classed as a Euronationalist party. It promises stronger anti-immigration laws, stricter law enforcement and more funds for families. In June 2004, Ursula Haubner, Haider's elder sister, succeeded Herbert Haupt as party chairperson.
The Freedom Party was founded in 1955, and initially held liberal political views. Its roots were in the Pan German movement, and so it attracted a wide range of adherents from anti-clerical liberals worried about Catholic Austria's potential isolation from the outside world to German nationalists, a minority of whom would have even been sympathetic to some Nazi policies. Austria's Catholic political culture meant that German nationalists, liberals, anti-clericals and vitually anyone uncomfortable with either the perceived deference to the Catholic Church of the People's Party and the fairly left wing socialism of the Social Democrats could feel comfortable in this third party.
Between 1986 and 2001, its leading figure was Jörg Haider, one of the most controversial European politicians - mostly because of his dubious dealing with Austria's National Socialist history.
In 1970 Haider became the leader of the FPÖ youth movement, where he was perceived to be a liberal. As a federal deputy in Carinthia he gained some notoriety, and popularity, in attacking linguistic privileges of the Slovenian minority. Haider rose rapidly through the party ranks, becoming party leader in 1986. He became governor of Carinthia in the 1990s.
The Freedom Party attracted protest votes and those who desire no association with the other major parties. The party's mixture of populism and anti-establishment themes propagated by its aggressive leader steadily gained support over the years. It attracted about 27% of the vote in the 1999 elections.
In 2000, it joined a coalition government with Wolfgang Schüssel's ÖVP (the conservative "People's Party"). Although the Freedom Party had more votes and seats, it took a junior part in the coalition. There was a great degree of outrage internationally with 14 European states initiating diplomatic sanctions against Austria.
In 2001, Haider stepped down from the leadership of the Freedom Party. This was widely seen as a cynical move to appease foreign criticism, as he was alleged to control the party from behind the scenes. He retained the governership of Carinthia. A split developed with an anti-Haider faction led by Freedom Party cabinet ministers gaining control of the party.
In the November 2002, general elections in Austria resulted in a landslide victory (42.27% of the vote) to the People's Party. The Freedom Party, which in 1999 was stronger than Schüssel's party, was reduced to 10.16% of the vote, less than half its previous vote. Nevertheless, the coalition government of People's Party and Freedom Party was revived in February 2003.
In September 2003 regional elections, notably in Upper Austria, also brought heavy losses, with the Austrian Green Party for the first time receiving more votes than the Freedom Party. The elections to the European Parliament in June 2004 reduced the Freedom Party's share of the vote to a mere 6%.
- FPÖ Homepage (German) (http://www.fpoe.at/bundneu/index.html)
- Freedom Party of Austria (http://www.photoglobe.info/ebooks/austria/cstudies_austria_0139.html) Country Studies - Austria