As expected, Austria’s controversial right-wing politician Joerg Haider has been unanimously elected as leader of his BZOE party. That means he will be the party’s leading candidate in the upcoming general election on September 28. Haider founded the anti-immigration Alliance for the Future of Austria in 2005 after the split of his far-right Freedom Party.
Haider will face Social Democrat leader Werner Faymann. He takes over from Alfred Gusenbauer, who has been weakened by 18 months of a shaky alliance with the conservatives.
Faymann, who holds the post of transport minister in the current government, has indicated he plans to focus on social issues to win back voters and alienated party members.
However, his efforts may be too little too late for the Social Democrats who are trailing five percentage points behind the conservatives in opinion polls ahead of September’s ballot.
Their leader, Vice Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer, called for new elections in early July, ending a year and a half of wrangling between the two parties. The far-right Freedom Party would come in third according to the survey, with the Greens and Haider’s new Future of Austria in fourth and fifth positions.