Right-winger resigns over ‘Blood and Honour’ tattoo

A right-wing politician has stepped down after a dispute considering a tattoo.Carinthian Freedom Party (FPK) Councillor Gerry Leitmann announced today (Tues) he informed Franz Felsberger, the Social Democratic (SPÖ) mayor of Ebenthal, Carinthia, about his decision to resign yesterday.Leitmann came under fire by political rivals for a tattoo saying “Blut und Ehre” (Blood and Honour) on his upper arm. Town Hall delegates saw the slogan when Leitmann turned up short-sleeved for a meeting last week. “Blut und Ehre” was the slogan and motto of the Nazis’ Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). The term has been used by neo-Nazis and fascists ever since.Local FPK officials acknowledged Leitmann’s decision to step down over the controversy. They argued it was the right move to spare the party from suffering in reputation. Judicial experts said today Leitmann – who promised to have the tattoo removed – could be prosecuted for breaching the federal anti-Nazi mindset law. Citizens face fines and jail terms for spreading or supporting Nazi propaganda under the bylaw which is considered being one of the most stringent in the world.The FPK was founded by former Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) members in Carinthia last year. The decision to set the faction up was preceded by a severe party-internal rift at the BZÖ which was established by late Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Jörg Haider in 2005.A growing number of BZÖ officials were unhappy with the liberal course of their party. They decided to create the FPK which is now cooperating with the FPÖ in the federal parliament in Vienna.The FPK currently forms a coalition government in Carinthia with the People’s Party (ÖVP) of Deputy Governor Josef Martinz. The southern province was the BZ֒s stronghold before hundreds of members quit their membership to join the FPK. Polls have shown that the BZÖ could fail taking the four per cent hurdle into government in the next general election due to the lack of support in many areas across Austria it has been suffering from.The BZÖ garnered 10.7 per cent in the most recent federal ballot in 2008 when Haider celebrated a comeback as front runner. He died in a car crash a few weeks later.The FPK is headed by Uwe Scheuch and Carinthian Governor Gerhard Dörfler.Meanwhile, the FPÖ is engulfed in an internal discussion over its future agenda. Party members backing chairman Heinz-Christian Strache want the faction to focus on a less harsh course considering foreigners to attract people who previously supported the SPÖ and the ÖVP. Far-right circles around third parliamentary president Martin Graf and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Andreas Mölzer are in favour of a strict anti-immigration policy.Mölzer recently appealed to Strache not to deny the party’s “roots.” The FPÖ leader angered far-right FPÖ members by calling for his attendance at a controversial meeting of student fraternities earlier this month. Strache was set to hold a speech at the gathering in Vienna in which the groups deplore the German soldiers killed in World War Two (WWII). The event sparked street protests by non-government organisations (NGOs), representatives of the Jewish community in Austria and moderate and left-wing politicians as the far-right student fraternities claim Germany did not start WWII. The meeting traditionally takes place in early May to mark the surrender of the Third Reich. Holocaust survivors attend commemoration events at former concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Austria at the same time.Strache claimed an urgent and top secret meeting with right-wing leaders from all over Europe in Italy would keep him from holding a speech at the event organised by the controversial student fraternities. The right-winger – who is member of Vandalia, a so-called fighting fraternity himself – did not give any further information on the meeting he attended instead of the Vienna gathering. Political magazines doubted that the meeting mentioned by Strache actually took place, while reports have it that he cancelled a request for police protection ahead of the WWII commemoration gathering in Vienna only hours before it started.Analysts claim Strache made a U-turn on the student fraternities’ event to avoid falling out with less radical voters. Surveys have shown that the FPÖ (17.5 per cent in general ballot in 2008) has a good chance to come first for the first time in history in the next federal election if the SPÖ-ÖVP government continues to exchange accusations for a lack of progress in urgently needed state reforms. Researchers have stressed that only a small number of FPÖ supporters have a far-right attitude, while the majority of party members think that way. Half of the party’s 32 MPs are members of far-right student fraternities.The FPÖ looks back on a slew of strong performances in various provincial elections. The party did well after having suffered a bitter defeat in last year’s presidential election won by Heinz Fischer. The FPÖ nominated ultra-conservative Barbara Rosenkranz. The mother-of-ten garnered just 16 per cent although the ÖVP did not nominate an own candidate. The Greens and the BZÖ did not nominate anyone for the position either.Strache was reportedly willing to challenge Fischer – a former SPÖ MP and science minister – himself before the FP֒s far-right branch had the last say. Rosenkranz failed to convince young and modest voters. She was criticised for failing to disassociate herself from WWII era crimes. Polls held before Rosenkranz was nominated revealed that Strache had the potential to bag more than twice the number of votes she garnered – although his rhetorical skills are much weaker than those of Haider, his political role model and personal idol. Strache stayed away from many crucial election campaign events in the run-up to the presidential ballot in what was seen as a signal that he disagreed with the decision to pick Rosenkranz as the party’s candidate.The FPÖ recovered well from the blow suffered in the presidential vote of 2010. The party has focused on attacking the government’s decision to assist debt-stricken Eurozone members Greece and Portugal. The FPÖ has not stopped hitting out at “immigrants unwilling to integrate” either. Especially Muslims have become a target of the party. Around 500,000 of the 8.5 million residents of Austria are Muslims.