The Austrian establishment has developed a three-pronged strategy to undermine the Freedom Party in that country, one of its leading Members of the European Parliament (MEP) has said.
Andreas Mölzer, an MEP for the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ, or Freedom Party of Austria) wrote on his blog in German that the “red and black spin doctors” (a reference to the far left and conservative party in Austria) seems to “have found a recipe to at least temporarily contain the FPÖ’s growth.”
Herr Mölzer was writing after recent local elections which saw the FPÖ suffer defeats in two important strongholds and their overall vote drop by around 10 percent.
“Firstly, they have created a parallel party to compete with the FPÖ,” he wrote.
“As the party which previously performed this role, the Bündnis Zukunft Österreich (BZÖ, or Alliance for the Future of Austria) appears now to be on the point of vanishing completely into the bottom drawer of the small-minded Austrian internal politics, in the tradition of a time-old strategy, a new party [to fulfil this role] has been developed.”
(The BZÖ was founded by the former leader of the FPÖ, Jörg Haider, as an alternative party but after a brief period of success, has shrunk considerably.)
The “new party” to which Herr Mölzer is referring is the “Team Stronach” group.
This is a party founded by Frank Stronach, an Austrian who immigrated to Canada in 1954 and built a $1.2 billion fortune in an international automotive parts company and in horse-racing entertainment. Last year, out of the blue, he came back to Austria and founded Team Stronach to compete with the FPÖ in the Eurosceptic field of Austrian politics. Unlike the FPÖ, Stronach is not opposed to further Third World immigration to Austria.
Attracted by the celebrity status of Team Stronach’s founder, six Austrian Members of Parliament, including two from the BZÖ, crossed the floor to join the new party,
allowing it to get official status in the parliamentary system and qualify for €1.4m of state funding.
At the party’s campaign launch, it unveiled political advertisements featuring endorsements from Bill Clinton and Larry King.
Driven by the “celebrity status,” the March 2013 regional elections saw Team Stronach take 11 percent of the vote, which directly caused the FPÖ vote to drop. The establishment’s strategy of dividing the protest vote, Herr Mölzer wrote, has thus been successful.
“The second strategy is that of creating scandals, spreading real or alleged corruption scandals” created by the BZÖ and blaming it on the FPÖ as well, he continued.
This was a reference to an alleged corruption scandal in the Carinthian province which involved non-aligned politicians associated with the BZÖ, which appeared to have successfully rubbed off on the FPÖ as well.
The third strategy, he said, was to stage “intra-coalition government debates” over the army and housing which “simulates red and black political discourse” and which consequently leads to those issues dominating the political debate. As the FPÖ is not directly involved in those issues, media coverage and attention of the party subsequently declined.
“The strategy seems to be working,” Herr Mölzer said, adding that it now appeared that the FPÖ’s support level was around 20 percent instead of the 30 at which it stood only a short while ago.
“This strategy could save the red and black collation, or it could use support from the Greens,” he said. This would lead to a completely left-aligned political environment in Austria.
The good news for FPÖ supporters, Herr Mölzer said, is that Team Stronach will “probably be only a temporary phenomenon.
“Their third-rate political staff and the age of their political mentor (81) makes this inevitable,” even if they succeed in polling 10 percent of the vote in the September 2013 national elections.
“The political raison d’être of Team Stronach is to prevent, or at least delay, the FPÖ’s march to political leadership.
“Thus, it remains a fact that the FPÖ under Heinz-Christian Strache represents the only serious alternative in Austria, the only political force that aims at a real reversal and reorientation” of the currently prevailing political policies.
“Short-term political setbacks, as we have seen in Carinthia and Lower Austria, and which we now might possibly also experience in the coming weeks and months, are likely to change nothing.
“We need internal solidarity, a sound alternative and a long political breathing space to meet the tactical political machinations of the establishment. Even if a Strache-FPÖ government is not a possibility this year, only our own hesitation or internal strife will change our long-term prospects.”
At the last general election, the FPÖ won 34 parliamentary seats and 17.54 percent of the popular vote.