Right-wing ′housewife′ wants to be Austria′s next president | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 24.04.2010
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Right-wing 'housewife' wants to be Austria's next president

On Sunday, Austrians will go to the polls to choose a new president. The incumbent Social Democrat is favored to win, but a far-right candidate is causing controversy.

Barbara Rosenkranz

Rosenkranz represents the party of deceased right-wing leader Joerg Haider

Barbara Rosenkranz, a mother of ten who describes herself as a housewife, is only expected to receive around ten percent of the vote in the Austrian presidential elections.

But even though she has next to no chance of winning, her candidacy is still causing a stir.

"I think there is no doubt she is not following an agenda that is very liberal or European," said Arno Behrens, a researcher at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels.

The 51 year-old Rosenkranz was put forward as a candidate by the far-right Freedom Party, founded by right-wing nationalist Joerg Haider. The Freedom Party is staunchly anti-immigrant and opposes the European Union.

A hand casting a ballot

Austrians are allowed to vote at age 16

However, analysts say Rosenkranz's success stems less from her personal political views than from an utter lack of competition.

Lack of options

Incumbent Austrian president Heinz Fischer was so popular in the early polls that the other major party, the right-of-center Christian Democrats, refused to put up a candidate of their own, creating a vacuum for conservative voters, said Dr. Franz Fallend, a political scientist at the University of Salzburg.

"If the Christian democrats had put up another candidate, no voters, or only very few, would consider voting for her. But now there is no right-wing or right-of-center candidate, so there are more voters who might consider voting for Barbara Rosenkrantz," Fallend told Deutsche Welle.

Behrens says this has put Austrian conservatives in a difficult position.

"It's between a far-right candidate and a socialist. So the options for conservatives are to vote for the extreme right candidate or not vote at all," Behrens told Deutsche Welle.

the EU flag and justice symbol

Rosenkranz opposes the EU and a multi-cultural Europe

Right-wing woes

Like Germany, Austria has struggled to come to terms with its Nazi past. However, Austria has a different post-war history with de-nazification, said Behrens, and this contributes to its current political situation.

"Austria has a problem with the right-wing, and people voting for what would, in Germany, be considered an extremist right-wing party," he said.

However, polling data show it's almost certain that incumbent Heinz Fischer will be re-elected on Sunday, leaving analysts hopeful that Rosenkranz's candidacy will remain a problem of Austria's past, rather than its future.

Author: Sarah Harman
Editor: Susan Houlton

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