Austria. In mid-March, the lawsuit began against Josef Fritzl, who was revealed almost a year earlier to have held his own daughter in prison for 24 years. According to countryaah, the daughter had given birth to seven children, six of whom survived and three spent their entire lives trapped in the basement. Fritzl was prosecuted for rape, incest, slavery and murder. During the trial, he pleaded guilty on all counts, and was sentenced to life in a forensic psychiatric ward.
The right-wing populist party BZÖ made a record choice in the state of Carinthia in March. The party received 45 percent of the vote. The result was partly interpreted as a tribute to the party’s founder and strong man Jörg Haider, who died in a car accident a few months before the election. But it was also seen as a sign of a crisis in the Social Democratic SPÖ, which lost close to 10 percentage points in voter support, largely to BZÖ. SPÖ also lost ground in the election in Salzburg, which was held at the same time, although the party there remained the largest, and in the EU elections in June. In the state elections in Vorarlberg and Upper Austria in September, support for the SPÖ was record low. In both cases, the xenophobic FPÖ – which BZÖ was formed – progressed strongly, even though the conservative ÖVP remained the largest. The Social Democrats’ large electoral losses made it difficult for SPÖ leader Werner Faymann.
In 1978, the government lost a referendum on building a nuclear power plant, but the SPÖ maintained its backing for the prime minister and cemented its power monopoly in the elections in 1979. Kreisky resigned after 1983, when the SPÖ lost the majority. In a coalition with the Liberal Party, FPÖ, SPÖ continued its social policy and active neutrality.
The governor of the northern province of Carinthia, Jörg Haider, the leader of the ultra-nationalist liberal party, FPÖ, was ousted in 1991 for praising employment policy in the Third Reich. In the municipal elections in November 1991, following a campaign in which he accused foreigners living in Austria of “stealing” jobs from the Austrians, FPÖ gained 22.6% of the vote, thus becoming the second largest political party in Vienna.
After increasingly powerful attacks against the aliens, the government in 1992 passed a law banning neonazi activities. In May, ÖVP’s Thomas Klestil was elected president with almost 57% of the vote, following Waldheim’s decision not to stand for re-election. It thus set the stage for 6 years of international isolation of Austria, due to Waldheim’s Nazi past.
The changes that took place in Europe had significant consequences for the Austrian economy. The reunification of the two Germans, for example, led to a deficit in the Austrian trade balance in the first years.
In 1993, Haider intensified his xenophobic attitudes, citing “uncontrolled” immigration, the rise in crime and unemployment. In February 200,000 people attended a demonstration in the streets of Vienna, facing racism. An attempt by Haider to reduce the number of foreigners and cut their rights did not achieve enough votes to be adopted.
In a referendum in 1994, the Austrians decided to join the EU; a decision which, theoretically, was not a violation of the Constitution’s words on the country’s neutrality. At the local elections in March, FPÖ again improved its election results. In the October parliamentary elections, Haider’s party gained 23% of the vote, while SPÖ lost 7%, to now 35% and ÖVP lost 4%, to about 28%.
The increase in the number of foreigners residing in Austria – around 300,000 in mid-1994 – coincided with new terrorist attacks on immigrants. Haider officially condemned this type of activity, but in a book printed in large print, Hans Henning Scharsach pointed out the similarities between Haider and Hitler, who were “likewise populist”. The increase in connection with Haider took place, while in Austria there was a discussion about Austrian co-responsibility during World War II.