Political scientist says Rosenkranz bid will not harm Austria’s reputation

The candidacy of Barbara Rosenkranz in the upcoming presidential elections will not damage Austria’s reputation abroad, a top political scientist has said.Salzburg-based Reinhard Heinisch, who lived and lectured in the United States for many years, said yesterday (Sun): “Austria is a relatively small and unimportant country. It is a problem Austria is getting linked with a Nazi mindset and far-right policies at every other election.”Heinisch however added that he did not expect the candidacy of the Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) MP to substantially effect Austria’s image negatively.This comes just days after 54.3 per cent of Austrian Times readers participating in the online newspaper’s poll said that the controversial views of Rosenkranz are not good for the country’s reputation.Only 17 per cent disagreed “since everyone knows what the FPÖ really stands for”, while 14.3 per cent said Rosenkranz was “not a main political figure and therefore not relevant.”Rosenkranz, who heads the FP֒s Lower Austrian branch, caused public outcry when she suggested Austria’s “National Socialism prohibition law” could be abandoned or reformed.This law, set up in 1947, prohibits the foundation of neo-Nazi parties and spreading such mindset. It is regarded as one of the strictest anti-Nazi laws in Europe. Several fringe far-right parties were forced to dissolve after courts checked their policies over the past decades.Rosenkranz said in an interview last month the question of whether the law should be scrapped was a “matter of freedom of speech”. She said: “The expression of wrong or appalling opinions must be allowed if one supports freedom of speech.”The mother-of-ten made a U-turn on the matter just a few days later to avoid further damage to her bid for presidency by declaring under oath that she never questioned the existence of gas chambers in the Third Reich’s death camps. Rosenkranz claimed her statements regarding Austria’s Nazi past were taken out of context.Rosenkranz would be the first female Austrian president, but she reaches just around ten per cent in current polls. Incumbent president Heinz Fischer, who decided to run for a second term last November, is seen at around 70 per cent. The former Social Democratic (SPÖ) president of the parliament’s other rival for the post is Rudolf Gehring, who heads the Austrian Christians Party (CPÖ).