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Keep pressure up after protests shake Haider

Issue No. 1686

What we think

Keep pressure up after protests shake Haider

J�RG HAIDER has been shaken by the wave of protest that greeted the entry of his far right Freedom Party into the Austrian government. He stood down from the party's leadership on Monday, nine days after 300,000 people marched against him. Haider is trying to manoeuvre. He hopes to push for the same policies he has always backed from behind the scenes, and to prepare to come back to centre stage. He should never get that chance if the people who have protested in recent weeks keep up their fight.

Haider says his move has nothing to do with the enormous opposition he faces. But can anyone seriously believe that he had planned all along to abandon the leadership post he seized 14 years ago and has ruthlessly defended since? Haider's party is feeling the pressure. Freedom Party justice minister Michael Kr�ger was admitted to hospital last weekend after suffering a breakdown brought on by "stress".

But Haider and his party have not gone away. He will still seek to control the party informally and remains governor of the Austrian state of Carinthia. His second in command, Susanne Riess-Passer, has taken his position. She comes from Braunau, Hitler's birthplace, and wants a museum of Hitler's life opened there, knowing it would become a shrine for Nazis across Europe. The Freedom Party still contains fascists and is in government. And the Hitler-praising Haider hopes to return as head of his party if the opposition to him recedes.

Three in four Austrians want the Freedom Party out of office. Mass demonstrations have already thrown Haider and the unstable coalition government into disarray. Further protests, including militant strikes against the government's austerity measures, can not only knock back fascism. They can bring a left wing challenge to capitalism in Austria and the racism it breeds.

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Sat 4 Mar 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1686
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