Häupl wants government to be more bullish towards ‘amateur’ Strache

Vienna’s Social Democratic (SPÖ) Mayor Michael Häupl has called on the federal government to show more courage in defying the aggressive campaigning of Freedom Party (FPÖ) chairman Heinz-Christian Strache.Häupl told the Kurier newspaper today (Weds): “The government has to do better and more about communicating its achievements such as the battling of the financial crisis, but it also has to carry out needed reforms. Furthermore, it must speak out more clearly against Strache’s ideas.”The influential Social Democrat – who has been mayor of the capital since 1994 – argued: “We need to unite if Strache says he wants Austria to leave the Eurozone. This amateur does nothing but harm to Austrians by saying such things.”Häupl’s statements come on the back of polls revealing that the FPÖ may come first given that Austrians were asked to elect a new federal parliament. The next general ballot is scheduled for 2013, but some analysts do not rule out it could be held earlier due to a possible collapse of the coalition of SPÖ and People’s Party (ÖVP).The parties have been quarrelling for months about how to reform the military and which measures should be taken to improve the federal education system. The coalition partners have also been trading blame for making no progress about reforming the Austrian bureaucracy which is branded as bloated by many. Meanwhile, the country’s debts are on the rise and Austria faces high interest rates for repaying its liabilities.The FPÖ seems to benefit from all those developments. Especially Strache, the party’s General Secretaries Harald Vilimsky and Herbert Kickl and FPÖ Vienna boss Johann Gudenus have pounced on the SPÖ and ÖVP with some real gloves-off attitude. While the FPÖ is entangled in a party-internal debate whether it should aim for responsibility on federal level after possible election wins in the future, the SPÖ tries to win back voters by calling for a tax on assets and inheritance.New ÖVP leader Michael Spindelegger promised a tax reform in the coming years despite having previously agreed with the SPÖ that such a reform was out of the question in this legislative period. Representatives of SPÖ and ÖVP initially agreed a tax reform was no option for the foreseeable future as the country must focus on reducing its debts first.The foreign minister – who had a 95 per cent approval when being elected as new chairman in a general summit recently – said the Austrian tax system should become fairer and easier to understand. Spindelegger explained the country’s taxation modus should take some pressure off families and “hardworking citizens.”Spindelegger also defended Austria’s participation in the international financial aid measures for struggling Eurozone members Greece and Portugal, while Strache claimed the government was “dispossessing” Austrians of their assets. The FPÖ boss accused the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition of “acting like a European Union (EU) sect” in this regard.Spindelegger also stressed that the decision to pour billions of Euros into Austria’s leading banks was right. The minister argued people’s savings would have been at risk had those institutes gone bust during the debt and financial crisis. Asked for his opinion on SPÖ boss Werner Faymann’s suggestion to set up a tax focusing on the assets of the wealthiest Austrians, he told magazine profil that such a tax would have little impact due to the low number of so-called super-rich citizens. Spindelegger also warned that wealthy Austrians would not hesitate to withdraw their assets from Austria if such a levy gets underway.Now Spindelegger is pressed to present a more precise policy considering immigration aspects as Strache’s party has sailed from one election win to the next in the past few years by accusing foreigners of being liable for a large number of felonies in Austria.Around 11 per cent of Austria’s population are foreigners. The FPÖ especially attacked the country’s Muslim community. The right-wing party succeeded in last year’s Vienna city parliament ballot by claiming that many Muslims were not willing to integrate into society. The FPÖ provoked outrage by publishing a cartoon in which foreigners were portrayed as evil and scheming.At the same time, Strache showed some effort to disassociate himself from the party’s far-right branch amid fears more modest young voters and working class members would not support the FPÖ because of overly aggressive policies. The party leader has been focusing on visiting discos and music events across Austria to convince young people of his ideas – a tactic which was successfully applied for the first time by an Austrian politician, Strache’s role model, late FPÖ boss Jörg Haider.Public opinion surveys have shown that a majority of under-30s want Strache to become Austrian chancellor. However, polls held after the most recent provincial and federal ballots revealed that the FPÖ found solid support among young and old and all classes of the country’s population.