Right-wingers at odds over option to rule

A severe party-internal rift is building up in the Freedom Party (FPÖ) after a far-right opinion leader questioned the party’s ability to rule.FPÖ Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Andreas Mölzer said in his internet blog he wondered “whether we will be able to give answers, create new concepts and carry out real reforms for the country” if the party takes on governmental responsibility after the next election.The FPÖ has been riding on a high in surveys for months. Polls show that the party is neck and neck with both the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) between 27 and 30 per cent.The SPÖ-ÖVP administration’s reputation has suffered immensely due to what columnists and industry representatives have branded a “standstill.” The coalition has broken promises in the opinion of many voters for failing to make the country’s bureaucracy work more efficiently. The government is also struggling with how to restructure the country’s health and pensions system as costs are soaring and people retire earlier on average year after year. Both the SPÖ and ÖVP had been more dominant in past decades while especially the FPÖ has gained in popularity.Referring to recent studies which hint at the likelihood that the FPÖ comes out on top for the first time in history, Mölzer argued it seemed people were not hesitant anymore to admit their support for the party in polls. Whenever new research figures are presented, analysts point out that many Austrians deny backing the right-wing party – even in anonymous interviews.Mölzer’s scepticism regarding the FP֒s role in a future government – which the party could form with the ÖVP in the same way they cooperated from 2000 on – comes shortly after FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache denied he was unwilling to take responsibility.Experts have claimed the FPÖ was well aware it was doing well in elections also due to their role as an opposition party hitting out at decision-makers in a ‘We are just like you’-style that seems to appeal to many voters unhappy with the government’s performance.Strache – who controversially travelled to Israel last December – said in a recent radio interview it was not true he had no competent personalities for a possible FPÖ cabinet of ministers. The right-winger claimed renowned businesspeople told him they were ready to join the team of ministers after the next ballot as independent, non-member experts in the finance and economy ministry. Speaking on Ö1, Strache added he was unable to reveal their names due to the hostile climate created by some parts of the public against his party.The FPÖ chief – who has been at the helm of the party since 2005 – said his goal was to become federal chancellor. Analysts see chances of a coalition between ÖVP and FPÖ if the right-wing party scales down its tone regarding immigration issues. Many high-ranking ÖVP representatives rule out cooperating with the FPÖ, while some ÖVP members refuse to strictly exclude the option as they are in favour of a wait and see approach if and how the FP֒s agenda is reformed in the coming months.