Meanwhile, in Austria

I’ve said before that Austrian politics has a really sick character you hardly find anywhere else, a sort of utter blankness of principle and whorish debasement in pursuit of preferment that would embarrass Silvio Berlusconi. But, Jörg Haider has managed to excel himself yet again.

Recap. Once upon a time there was the FPÖ, a rather nasty hard-right outfit that got into government by offering the mainstream conservative party, the ÖVP, a helping hand when it lost an election. Cue shock from many (mostly social democratic) European capitals and (practically meaningless) “sanctions” from the EU. A couple of years on, the sanctions are off and there has been a world of scandals. The FPÖ splits after its titular leader Susanne Riess-Passer, a relative of Haider’s who acts as his representative on Earth and Austria’s Vice-Chancellor, becomes dangerously independent and Haider launches a separate party conference to seize back control. Riess-Passer shuffles off to obscurity. Eventually, Haider and the Carinthian provincial party secede and rename themselves the BZÖ, using the colour orange rather than the FPÖ’s traditional blue.

The Chancellor promptly switches the new-old Haider group into his coalition instead of the rump (and never was the term more appropriate) FPÖ. By this manoeuvre, note, the Haider group has neatly ensured they don’t have to deal with the FPÖ’s debts, which are substantial.

Now, with elections due in October, Haider announces his BZÖ will campaign as “BZÖ – Die Freiheitlichen” and mostly in blue, with various old FPÖ stalwarts like Peter Westenthaler (who sat the whole thing out whilst holding a well-paid sinecure with industrialist Frank Stronach’s car-parts empire) and the execrable Helene Partik-Pablé. (She is remembered for explaining to parliament that “black people do not just look different, they are different, and especially aggressive”, and that “babies flee from a black shape placed over their cradle” in the same context.) Not just that, but his campaign material will carry a large stamp reading “The Original!”

Partik-Pablé does not seem to have improved with keeping. Her latest campaign is to examine the Geneva Conventions and the Refugee Convention to see if they are up to date. Gentle reader, the prospect buggers the imagination. Haider’s old followers in the original FPÖ are now appealing to the courts (they sure ain’t appealing to anyone else) to stop him going to the polls with their intellectual property.

Commenter “Munis” on Der Standard’s website sums it up:

ich kann einfach diesen widerwärtigen machtgeilen, arroganten Gnom, diesen neoliberalen Ex-Mascherlträger aus Hietzing einfach nicht mehr sehen und riechen. Sowas von überheblich und herablassend, sowas von charakterlos, untergriffig, diffamierend und wortbrüchig (wenn wir dritter werden dann gibts Opposition etc.). Ich frage Euch ganz ehrlich: Wie kann man so etwas wählen?? Diese ÖVP kotzt mich nur mehr an.

In English: “I can’t bear to see and smell this neo-liberal ex-goatee wearer, this arrogant gnome disgusting with lust for power any longer. There’s something both low and haughty, dishonourable, underhand, libellous, and liable to break his word (“if we come third we’ll go into opposition”) about him. I ask you, honestly – how could anyone elect him? This ÖVP makes me sicker and sicker.”

I remember the Austrian writer Robert Menasse saying, during a demo back in the spring of 2002, that Haider was a good thing for the country because he would force the Social Democrats to raise their game. I disagreed. Menasse told me I knew nothing of dialectics.