Austrian Right-Winger Haider Killed in Car Crash

Austrian far-right leader Joerg Haider, a charismatic populist who helped bring anti-immigrant politics into the European mainstream, was killed in a car accident on Saturday. He was 58.

Haider, who led the right into a coalition government from 2000 to 2006, polarized Austria and drew condemnation abroad with anti-foreigner outbursts and for appearing to endorse some Nazi policies. But he avoided such rhetoric in later years.

Last month, after years of retreat into provincial politics, he helped Austria’s far right win about 30 percent of the vote in a parliamentary election, mining discontent over feuding centrist governing parties, inflation and immigration.

His spokesman Stefan Petzner said Haider, who was governor of Carinthia province, had been driving to his rural home near Klagenfurt early on Saturday morning for a family gathering to mark his mother’s 90th birthday when the accident occurred.

The government car he was driving skidded out of control after he overtook another vehicle. His car hit a concrete traffic barrier and rolled over several times, police said.

Haider was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital.

“This is for us like the end of the world. He wasn’t just my boss but also my best friend,” a weeping Petzner said.

Haider shook up Austria’s stiff, formal political scene with his blunt and engaging manner. He struck a chord with ordinary people and was on good personal terms even with political foes. 

via BBC: Austrian far-right leader Haider killed in crash


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