BZÖ chief denies Stronach alliance

Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) boss Josef Bucher has dismissed claims that he plans a political partnership with Frank Stronach.

Newspapers have speculated that the wealthy businessman – who founded car parts manufacturer Magna International in the 1950s – could subsidise the BZÖ after he spoke about plans to invest “several million Euros if I get the feeling that there are the right people with the right political programme.”

Stronach said in several recent interviews and during various platform discussions that he wanted to encourage young and creative people to get engaged in politics. But analysts claimed that he was more likely to team up with the BZÖ after it became evident that he supported a “simple and fair taxation system” and a “flat rate”. Stronach said: “Investments in Austria should not be taxed. Like this, we could create jobs. Employees should benefit from their employers’ successes. This would ensure everyone follows the same goals.”

The Magna International founder – who injected tens of millions of Euros into Austrian Football Bundesliga clubs FK Austria Vienna and Wiener Neustadt in the past years – added: “We need economic growth (…) but Austria lacks structures which would help to become competitive again. (…) Many young Austrians would like to get active in politics but are uncertain about how to start. Others are discouraged because of the poor politics of many years.”

The striking resemblance of his ideas and the BZÖ programme appeared to make a strategic partnership highly likely. Political scientists pointed out that a new political group could experience considerable difficulties in entering the parliament in next year’s election regardless of its front runner and promises. At the same time, the BZÖ is fighting to remain a part of the parliament which currently consists of five factions. The right-wing party bagged 10.7 per cent in 2008. Latest polls show that only three to four per cent of Austrians plan to support it in the next federal vote. Around four per cent are needed to win seats in the national parliament which is located in Vienna.

Speaking to Die Presse, Bucher revealed that he met with Stronach. The BZÖ leader explained the businessman wanted to get to know him. “We share the same opinion regarding some points,” Bucher explained, adding that his party was financially stable enough to organise and fund its general election campaign without help by big investors. “From today’s point of view, we will run on our own.” Bucher said concerning speculations about cooperating with Stronach in some way.

The BZÖ is seen at risk of being torn apart by the current political developments. While some high-ranking members still represent far-right policies, Bucher tries to reshape the party – which was established in 2005 – into a political group concentrating on economic issues. This strategy could help to protect the BZÖ’s chances to form a government coalition with the People’s Party (ÖVP) of Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger and another faction after the next nationwide election.

At the same time, the ÖVP remains in the firing line of Bucher in what are seen as attempts to win over former supporters of the government party in the ballot of 2013. The ÖVP recently dropped to third place in polls. Surveys show that the rightist Freedom Party (FPÖ) could come first in next year’s vote, with the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) in second place.