Freedom Party of Austria

   / Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs
   Organized in 1949 as the League of Independents, the movement drew together disparate constituencies that did not fit conveniently into either the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) or the Socialist Party of Austria (SPÖ). These included German national elements still left from World War II, monarchists, classical liberals, former Nazis, and anticlerical conservatives. The movement regrouped under the name the Freedom Party in 1956. Anton Reinthaller (1895–1958), its first leader, was an erstwhile Nazi Party member who had been minister of agriculture in the first Austrian government following the Anschluss in 1938. From 1958 to 1978, the FPÖ was headed by Friedrich Peter (1921–2005), once an officer in the Schutzstaffel (SS). Its program stressed the German character of the new Austrian state, traditional social values, and the rights of private property. Though fusion with Germany was out of the question, the party agenda was very supportive of a European union that would promote close relationships between the two countries. Somewhat marginalized in Austrian politics by its leadership and its ideology, the FPÖ functioned as a voice of opposition in the Austrian parliament until 1983. In that year, led by Norbert Steger (1944–), it entered a coalition with a minority SPÖ government headed by Fred Sinowatz (1929–), the successor of Bruno Kreisky. Their cooperation, however, was short-lived. In September 1986 Jörg Haider, the leader of the movement in Carinthia, replaced Steger. The former’s free market philosophy and strident criticism of Austrian immigration policy was unacceptable to a new SPÖ chancellor, Franz Vranitzky, and the coalition dissolved. Elections in November raised the size of the Freedom Party delegation in the parliament from 12 to 18. From 2000 to 2006, the party was in formal coalition with the government of Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel of the ÖVP. A split within the party over Haider’s negative views on Austrian membership in the European Union and immigration policy led some FPÖ members to form the Liberal Forum in 1993. Haider and his party nevertheless remained a problematic presence in Austrian politics. Basically a contrarian, he indicated in 1998 that he would be willing to continue his political activities apart from the FPÖ, and he did so until his death in 2008. The FPÖ, however, under the leadership of Heinz-Christian Strache, has seen a major resurgence of its fortunes. In the national election of 2008, it took close to 20 percent of the vote.
   See also Political Parties.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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