Jörg Haider was not just an influential figure in Austria, he also became a very wealthy one when he inherited his uncle’s estate in the Austrian state of Corinthia.
The image he projected was one of power.
He became leader of the FPO party’s youth wing at the age of 20, Austria’s youngest member of parliament at 29 and FPO party leader at the age of 36.
His power base remained in his native Corinthia, where popular support cemented his position as governor in 1999.
He had already been governor ten years earlier but was forced to step down after defending the Third Reich’s employment policy of the 1930s.
He reserved much of his criticism for the EU, telling Euronews in 2001:
“I am dangerous to a certain extent because I don’t agree with the official philosophy of the European Union because they try to centralise all the power on a European level. And I think we have to separate the power, we have to bring the power back to the people.”
The EU was no great supporter of Haider and when his party was invited by the centre-right to join a ruling coalition in 2000, other European countries temporarily ceased to cooperate with Austria, effectively imposing sanctions on the country.
Haider withdrew to Corinthia but in September of this year he was back with a bang.
His new party, the BZO, which split from the FPO three years ago, tripled its debut election score of 2006, obtaining more than 10 percent of the vote.
Such election success was typical of Haider’s career. He may have had many detractors but his personality and populism ensured consistent support from many Austrians.
Haider leaves behind his wife Claudia and two daughters.