All eyes on Rosenkranz as clear Fischer win predicted

Incumbent president Heinz Fischer is expected to celebrate a landslide victory in Sunday’s presidential elections, but the main focus will be on the performance of his rival Barbara Rosenkranz.The campaign of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) candidate has been shattered by a series of controversial statements by herself about Austria’s Nazi past. The mother-of-ten accused press of “riding an aggressive campaign” against her, while she branded Fischer a “core Socialist”.Analysts said the right-wing party could have benefited from its chief Heinz-Christian Strache getting into the ring against Fischer. Strache would have had no chances of beating the former Social Democratic (SPÖ) MP either, but a running for president would have boosted his bid to end the SP֒s majority in Vienna at the upcoming city elections.Analysts said that by achieving a respectable result in the 25 April presidential elections, Strache would have managed to dominate the headlines until autumn when the elections for the Vienna city parliament take place.Elections for the city parliament have always been preceded by heated debates over topics such as multicultural conflicts and “lazy immigrants”. Despite Vienna coming first in various international life quality studies, the FPÖ could always be certain of the support of those who feel disadvantaged in society.The chance to focus on issues like rich bankers / poor labourers in the presidential elections was there for the opposition party, but the bid of its candidate Rosenkranz was from the start overshadowed by her expressed doubts of the country’s “National Socialism prohibition law”. This ruling, in force since 1947, poses punishment for those who found or support neo-Nazi movements or show support for such mindset. It is considered as one of the most strict anti-Nazi rules in Europe.Rosenkranz and other FPÖ officials said changing the law when it comes to its tough sanctions against young people should be considered. The party said “teenage follies” and “youthful sins” might be punished in an exaggerated way through the law.The FP֒s candidate’s point of view caused public outcry, while she claimed media quoted her out of context. And the storm did not die down when Rosenkranz failed to clearly disassociate herself from war-era crimes. Asked whether she – as it has been claimed many times – doubted the existence of gas chambers at Nazi death camps, she said: “My knowledge and view of history is the one of a person who visited Austrian schools between 1964 and 1976.”Rosenkranz referred to the controversial fact that curriculums at many Austrian schools failed to feature World War Two at that time. Greens leader Eva Glawischnig said she was “shocked” that someone was unable to answer “with a simple ‘no’” to such a question, while Fischer said such mindset made it impossible for him to meet Rosenkranz in a live TV debate. And historians focusing on the right-wing scene explained Rosenkranz was speaking in “codes” those on the far-right would understand.Rosenkranz was then forced to react since it seemed she was about to lose the support of the country’s leading newspaper. Kronen Zeitung publisher Hans Dichand praised the Salzburg-born MP as a “courageous mother who would be a good president”. His comment ended with his appeal: “Let’s vote her!”The newspaper – which is read by almost three million of Austria’s eight million population – was in the past a key factor to success for many politicians, while it also managed to end promising political careers.At a press conference Rosenkranz denied she ever doubted the existence of gas chambers and said she always condemned all sorts of war cruelties. Some of her critics nevertheless doubted the credibility of her words since she made these announcements just two days after the Kronen Zeitung appealed on her to do so in a comment by “Cato” a.k.a. Dichand. Tens of thousands of Austrians joined anti-Rosenkranz groups on internet social network websites.Rosenkranz from then on refused to answer questions on the issue and blamed some journalists of trying to attack her personally. The political views of her husband Horst Jakob Rosenkranz – who published far-right magazine “Fakten” – also continued to play a role in newspapers’ coverage of the campaign as did the candidate’s ten children.Rosenkranz said she saw herself as an “offer for conservative Austrians”. Analysts said she would have had the potential to win the votes of many People’s Party (ÖVP) supporters disappointed about their party’s decision not to nominate an own candidate. This estimation was however made before it emerged that none of her ten children – who all have ancient Germanic names – are baptised and that she herself had left the Catholic Church many years ago.Political columnists claimed Rosenkranz was never Strache’s number one choice, but he – according to them – picked her due to the support by the Kronen Zeitung that seemed to be certain. Rosenkranz – a rather low-key MP for years – has been praised by the paper since 2005 when she was the only member of the federal parliament’s 183 MPs to vote against the European Union’s (EU) Lisbon Treaty in 2005.Strache’s announcement that he saw a potential of 35 per cent for her was regarded as burden for her campaign since it was a rather unrealistic forecast. While Strache himself would have had the potential for 30 to 40 per cent, Rosenkranz is seen between 10 and 16 per cent in latest polls.Sunday’s election is seen as a touchstone for the Austria’s right-wing minority who helped the FPÖ to come second in the 1999 general election before the party suffered dramatic losses. The current headwind could keep Rosenkranz below 10 per cent, while it cannot be ruled out that many Austrians switch to support her in a “now more than ever” attitude as has happened in various elections in the past.Another key factor in Sunday’s election will be the question of how many people will stay at home. It is expected that those who support the policies of Fischer could decide not going to the polling booths since all pollsters see him between 70 and 80 per cent. Recent research revealed that 47 per cent of Austrians consider the presidential election as “rather unimportant”.All these developments in the current campaign have sparked a debate over whether it would make more sense if the parliament or some sort of federal council elected the president in the future. The president is the country’s highest representative and the military’s Supreme Commander, but has comparably little political power although the post enables the politician to reject laws that already passed the parliament.Fischer has been criticised throughout his six-year term for failing to clearly speak out about various important topics. Even some of his political companions admitted he would stick to the constitution too stubbornly in some cases.The president reacted to the accusations by declaring today (Fri) that he will set up a “think tank of experts” in the presidential office that will consult him about important topics.Fischer has for years been found to be the most popular Austrian politician, but many conservatives find it important to support the experienced 71-year-old due to his tight connections with the left wing of the SPÖ. He decided to “rest” his membership when he ran for president for the first time in 2004. But some ÖVP supporters now explained that it wouldn’t be the past six years that made them not vote for him but the 30 years before that.Those speaking out in support of the parliament or some council electing the president to avoid a lengthy and in some ways obscure campaign said they felt confirmed by the running of Rudolf Gehring.The head of the non-parliament Austrian Christians Party (CPÖ), who is seen around four per cent in polls, called for a “mothers income” so they did not have to put their children into kindergartens and day-care centres – since this could cause brain damage.Gehring, who regards homosexuality as a “wrong track attitude” also said government ministers should hold a prayer before every meeting. And he warned his supporters that all people would soon have a chip implanted as part of secret international operations.Catholic Church officials criticised his “instrumentalisation” of the Catholic belief for his campaign.