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05. 10. 10. - 16:00

No BZ-FP cooperation in Vienna, says Sonnleitner

Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZ) Vienna city parliament election front runner Walter Sonnleitner has ruled out cooperating with the Freedom Party (FP).

Sonnleitner said today (Tues) he agreed with federal BZ leader Josef Bucher not to form a coalition with the right-wing rivals after Sundays (10 October) Vienna vote.

The former business journalist for national broadcaster ORF, who agreed to act as the struggling partys front runner in the capital earlier this year, claimed a liberal movement had the potential to gain 10 to 12 per cent in Austria.

Research has however shown that most people regard the BZ which was founded by late FP boss Jrg Haider five years ago as a right-wing party which opposes immigration.

Sonnleitner nevertheless stressed he was convinced being able to enter the city parliament in Vienna. He told newspaper Die Presse: "An image makeover takes time."

Sonnleitner referred to Buchers attempt to free the BZ from its far-right links and re-establish it as a party focusing on economic issues which is located in the centre-right of the political scale.

The BZ clearly missed entering the city parliament in the Vienna ballot five years ago, winning just 1.2 per cent. Around five per cent are needed to claim a seat.

Sonnleitner dismissed claims that he has already given up the idea of making it into parliament this time around. Speaking about polls which see the BZ behind the Austrian Communist Partys (KP) branch once more, he said: "Some released studies are bought to talk small parties down. Most recent polls give the BZ between two and six per cent, so it seems I can pick the ones I prefer."

Sonnleitner stressed the Social Democrats (SP) would lose their absolute majority if the BZ enters the city parliament. "This is why some claim we wont stand a chance," the ex-journalist who is not actually a member of the BZ despite running for the party - claimed.

Asked for his opinion on allegations Haider received tens of millions of Euros by Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi and late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, he told Die Presse: "Thats all just ridiculous rumours spread ahead of the election. Can you show me a single piece of evidence?"

Sonnleitner, however, stressed that authorities should follow up all possible evidences to clarify the issue.

Analysts have claimed the BZ may collapse if the party fails to succeed in Sundays Vienna ballot. The party suffered a string of dramatic defeats in various provincial elections following the death of Haider in October 2008. The indebted partys latest good result dates back to September of the same year when it bagged 10.7 per cent in general elections in which Haider surprisingly agreed to act as front runner.

A key difficulty the BZ has struggled with is to disassociate itself from far-right mindset supported by former federal leader Peter Westenthaler and MP Ewald Stadler. Westenthaler once suggested all asylum seekers should be seated in coaches and deported, while Stadler has caused controversy several times with his controversial views on Austrias role in World War Two.

The FP fared much better since the party feud leading to the foundation of the BZ in 2005. The party headed by Heinz-Christian Strache has shown little reluctance to use xenophobic slogans in on the campaign trail.

It has claimed in the current Vienna election campaign the SP would fork out more for immigrants unwilling to integrate than the Austrian youth.

Johann Gudenus, second behind Strache on its list, claimed many Vienna residents were concerned about "extreme Islamisation."

Gudenus who has used terms which are understood by neo-Nazis to be codes referring to prohibited propaganda, according to experts said: "Young Turks unwilling to integrate are the problem. They are more violent and ready to carry out crimes."

Strache, who wears a bulletproof vest at campaign events after receiving murder threats, claimed the SP has failed to listen to peoples concerns about soaring crime, unemployment and other issues.

The right-winger who also heads the FP֒s Viennese branch accused political rivals of "isolating" him because he was "one of the few politicians who speak out uncomfortable truths."

The FP garnered 14.8 per cent in Vienna in 2005 and is expected to overtake the Peoples Party (VP) which won 18.8 per cent five years ago for second place.

Its campaign kickoff event at the Lugner City shopping centre last month was overshadowed when a protestor threw a butyric acid stink bomb into the crowd of around 2,000. An estimated 200 people demonstrated against the event, with dozens of left-wing activists trying to interfere processes at subsequent FP events on the campaign trail.

Strache strategist Herbert Kickl created a campaign portraying the campaign as a boxing fight between the FP boss and SP Mayor Michael Hupl.

Analysts have explained that the SP did not try to play down the attempt too much in a bid to encourage its own supporters to head to the polls on Sunday. Just six in 10 Vienna residents eligible to vote did so in the 2005 ballot. Strategists have singled out the massive group of people who stayed at home five years ago as those deciding the outcome of the election on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Strache is under fire over allegations that previously convicted neo-Nazis acted as security personnel at recent FP events. Reports have it that violent skinheads with criminal records told people attending the events they were official FP crew ensuring safety while warning demonstrators of beating them up if they planned to cause any frictions.

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