Freedom Party (FPÖ) boss Heinz-Christian Strache is in hot water after a bodyguard put a man into hospital last weekend.
One of Strache’s three personal security guards attacked another guest of a club in Vienna-Favoriten on Saturday night. The man – understood to be an internationally successful banker – threw a ham roll and ice cubes into the direction of the right-wing politician. Strache was not hit by the objects, according to newspaper reports. A spokeswoman for the Viennese police forces confirmed the incident today (Tues).
The 40-year-old disco guest had to be hospitalised after the attack by Strache’s staff. He sustained a black eye, according to Viennese dailies. FPÖ officials said reports about the incident were exaggerated and partly incorrect. They said it was not true that Strache – who turned up at the event with his girlfriend – had not been invited to the event which took place at a defunct factory. Strache and his employee could face a lawsuit over the incident. However, an out of court settlement seems more likely.
Strache managed to increase his high popularity among young Austrians by attending concerts and disco parties across the country ahead of elections and throughout the year. Especially teenagers with only basic education and people coming from poor personal background endorse the rightist politician’s views. However, the FPÖ managed to win strong support among people who formerly backed the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) in provincial and federal elections of the past few years. The party also did well in various works council and labour union ballots.
Strache took over as FPÖ leader in 2005 after having headed the party’s Viennese department for some years. He decided to take responsibility on federal level after late FPÖ boss Jörg Haider left the faction to establish the BZÖ, the Alliance for the Future of Austria. The FPÖ could garner between 27 per cent and 30 per cent in the next federal election while pollsters see the BZÖ at less than four per cent. This means that the party headed by Josef Bucher could drop out of the parliament.
The next general election is scheduled for 2013. However, an earlier call to the polling booths got more likely in the past weeks due to the SPÖ-ÖVP government’s strong disagreement about issues like new and higher taxes. Both parties are caught in inner conflicts between their pro-European policies and the rise of Strache, an outspoken Eurosceptic.
The FPÖ bagged 17.5 per cent in the most recent federal vote which took place in 2008. It shocked the political elite of Vienna when it increased its share in the city by almost 11 per cent to 25.77 per cent in the city parliament election of 2010.
Fifteen per cent of Austrians would back Strache were they allowed to name the country’s chancellor in a direct vote. SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann would have the support of 19 per cent, according to research group Karmasin. The agency said ÖVP chief Michael Spindelegger could be certain of an approval of 16 per cent of voters while Greens chairwoman Eva Glawischnig would claim six per cent.