One week after far-right leader Joerg Haider died in a car accident, several thousand Austrians gathered Saturday in the town of Klagenfurt for a grand official ceremony, taking place before the private funeral.
Haider, while reviled by many, was extremely popular in his state of Carinthia
The memorial service for the late leader of the Alliance for the Future of Austria was attended by President Heinz Fischer, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, but it was above all set up as an event for the public.
Hundreds of people dressed in black or in traditional dirndl dresses and lederhosen were lining the main square, where the formal part of the ceremony was to take place.
Although Haider's anti-foreigner stance and his revisionist statements divided the Austrian public, the governor of Carinthia was supported by a large part of the population in his home province.
"I have come to bid farewell to the best man Carinthia ever had," said Gertrude Naber-Ehrlich, an elderly lady from Klagenfurt.
In a ceremony that seemed fit for a head of state rather than for the deceased governor of Carinthia, Haider's coffin was led in a procession around the city center.
The son of Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, attended the ceremony. He befriended Haider during his post-graduate studies in Vienna.
Two presidents of northern Italian regions, Renzo Tondo from Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Giancarlo Galan from Veneto, were also expected to participate.
Haider died October 11 at the age of 58 in Klagenfurt, when the car he was driving at a speed of 142 kilometers per hour veered off the road and flipped over several times. Haider was drunk at the time of the accident.
Contrary to media reports, no European right-wingers, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen from France and Alessandra Mussolini from Italy, were present.