‘Haider soulmate’ Petzner resigns as BZÖ general secretary

Stefan Petzner announced he would step down as general secretary of the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) after weeks of denying reports he considered such a move.Petzner said yesterday (Thurs) he wanted to fully focus on his duties in the province of Carinthia where he was named head of the party’s branch earlier this week. He will however remain a BZÖ MP and the party’s deputy whip in the federal parliament.Petzner made headlines all over the world with his tearful farewell from his “soulmate” Jörg Haider who died in a drunken car crash in October 2008. Petzner succeeded the late right-wing icon as BZÖ boss but was replaced by Herbert Scheibner after just a few weeks. Josef Bucher took over from Scheibner last year.Petzner successfully managed several BZÖ election campaigns including the one for the 2008 general election in which the party sensationally garnered 10.7 per cent, up from four per cent in 2006.He however also made himself a laughing stock months later by revealing his “vision” to become mayor of Vienna someday.BZÖ spokesman Heimo Lepuschitz said the party “accepts and respects” Petzner’s decision.Petzner only last week branded claims he was considering resigning as general secretary as “attempts to harm our Easter piece”.The BZÖ was founded by Haider in 2005 after he fell out with key Freedom Party (FPÖ) officials. It has around two to three per cent support in polls, while the FPÖ seems to have the potential to win up to 25 per cent.The BZÖ recently failed to enter the provincial parliaments of Vorarlberg and Upper Austria in elections. Bucher is nevertheless optimistic about this autumn’s Styrian elections, while the party will not run in the upcoming provincial elections in Burgenland. It remains unclear whether it will run in Vienna city elections also taking place this year.Bucher recently appealed to the People’s Party (ÖVP) to team up with his party in nominating a conservative candidate for the 25 April presidential election. ÖVP boss Josef Pröll however rejected the suggestion. Bucher had to ditch plans to run for president himself due to the party’s tense financial situation.Political parties in Austria are compensated parts of their campaign spending in provincial and federal elections depending on their success. This is however not the case with presidential elections. This ruling was one of the reasons the Greens also decided not to nominate an own candidate.