No BZÖ-FPÖ cooperation in Vienna, says Sonnleitner

Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) Vienna city parliament election front runner Walter Sonnleitner has ruled out cooperating with the Freedom Party (FPÖ).Sonnleitner said today (Tues) he agreed with federal BZÖ leader Josef Bucher not to form a coalition with the right-wing rivals after Sunday’s (10 October) Vienna vote.The former business journalist for national broadcaster ORF, who agreed to act as the struggling party’s 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 BZÖ – which was founded by late FPÖ boss Jörg 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 Bucher’s attempt to free the BZÖ 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 BZÖ 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 BZÖ behind the Austrian Communist Party’s (KPÖ) branch once more, he said: “Some released studies are bought to talk small parties down. Most recent polls give the BZÖ between two and six per cent, so it seems I can pick the ones I prefer.”Sonnleitner stressed the Social Democrats (SPÖ) would lose their absolute majority if the BZÖ enters the city parliament. “This is why some claim we won’t stand a chance,” the ex-journalist – who is not actually a member of the BZÖ 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: “That’s 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 BZÖ may collapse if the party fails to succeed in Sunday’s Vienna ballot. The party suffered a string of dramatic defeats in various provincial elections following the death of Haider in October 2008. The indebted party’s 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 BZÖ 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 Austria’s role in World War Two.The FPÖ fared much better since the party feud leading to the foundation of the BZÖ 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 SPÖ 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 SPÖ has failed to listen to people’s 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 FPÖ garnered 14.8 per cent in Vienna in 2005 and is expected to overtake the People’s Party (ÖVP) – 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 FPÖ events on the campaign trail.Strache’ strategist Herbert Kickl created a campaign portraying the campaign as a boxing fight between the FPÖ boss and SPÖ Mayor Michael Häupl.Analysts have explained that the SPÖ 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 FPÖ events. Reports have it that violent skinheads with criminal records told people attending the events they were official FPÖ crew ensuring safety – while warning demonstrators of beating them up if they planned to cause any frictions.