Haider's daughter to lead Austrian far-right party in EU vote

by Reuters
Saturday, 15 March 2014 19:51 GMT

VIENNA, March 14 (Reuters) - Austria's right-wing BZO party on Saturday named a daughter of Joerg Haider as its lead candidate in European Parliament elections in May, hoping to recapture the charisma and political acumen of its late leader.

Ulrike Haider-Querica, 37, a university professor in Rome, told a convention of the Alliance for the Future of Austria that she was ready to lead a new generation out to change what she called the European Union's "failed policies".

She said EU founders' vision of a Europe as a peace project and common market had been corrupted, as shown primarily by bailouts of struggling euro zone countries that had threatened Europe's unity.

"The consequences are devastating. We run the danger of losing an entire generation," she told the convention, according to remarks published on the BZO website that said the EU had become "a marketplace for banks and corporations".

A split in the far-right Freedom Party led Joerg Haider to create the BZO, but its popularity has dwindled since he died in a car crash in 2008.

It fell out of Austria's parliament in elections last year and is polling only around 2 percent in opinion surveys on the European elections, which it will only be able to contest if it gathers enough voter signatures by April 11.

Polls show the Freedom Party neck-and-neck with the two ruling parties, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPO) and the conservative People's Party (OVP), at around 23 percent.

Joerg Haider, who helped bring anti-immigrant politics into the European mainstream, led the far right into a coalition government from 2000 to 2006.

He polarised Austria and drew condemnation abroad with anti-foreigner outbursts and for appearing to endorse some Nazi policies, although he avoided such rhetoric in later years.

"My father was an outstanding person in Austrian politics who was very popular but also very heavily criticised. The 'Haider criticism' was often used against his daughters as well," Ulrike Haider told the Oesterreich newspaper in a recent interview, recalling how she once failed to get an internship at a European court because of her family name.

But she added: "I want to reject dirty politics. I am running because I am a committed but also EU-critical European." (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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