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Haider Will Stay in Politics

A poor showing by his far-right party in Austria's elections initially led him to quit.

November 26, 2002|From Associated Press

VIENNA — Joerg Haider, leader of Austria's far right, announced early today that he will stay in politics, just hours after declaring that he was calling it quits because of his Freedom Party's disastrous showing in Sunday's general elections.

Haider, whose praise of Adolf Hitler and anti-foreigner rhetoric helped propel his party into national government two years ago, said he was persuaded to stay on as governor of Carinthia after a six-hour meeting with political colleagues.

"I accept personally much of the responsibility for the bad results," he told the Austria Press Agency. "Thus a resignation would have been the logical consequence. But my party friends did not accept this because they believe my 'Carinthian way' is good and I should continue."

Haider's decision was the latest example of a "withdrawal from a withdrawal" that critics cite as an example of why he cannot be taken seriously. The move was likely to further alienate swing voters who abandoned his party in Sunday's elections.

Though Haider stepped down in 2000 as the Freedom Party's official leader, he has continued to wield influence.

His previous threats to quit politics were made to pressure opponents in his party to accept his views. But his declaration Monday that he was quitting had been taken more seriously.

Weakened by infighting, the party lost nearly two-thirds of its previous support Sunday, winning only 10% of the vote.

Disaffected swing voters powered the conservative People's Party -- the Freedom Party's government coalition partners -- to more than 42%, its best showing since the mid-1960s. The Social Democrats also gained, getting just under 37%.

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