Haider's successor steps down weeks after death of far-right leader

21st November 2008, Comments 0 comments

One day after Joerg Haider died in a car accident on Nov. 11, 27-year-old Petzner was promoted from executive secretary to interim head of the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZOe) until a party congress next year.

Vienna -- Stefan Petzner, successor to the late Austrian rightist leader Joerg Haider, said Thursday he would give up his post to work on upcoming elections but media reports said his emotional mourning of Haider had become a liability to his party.

One day after Joerg Haider died in a car accident on Nov. 11, 27-year-old Petzner was promoted from executive secretary to interim head of the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZOe) until a party congress next year.

"Petzner's unfortunate public appearances, in which he spoke highly emotionally about his private relationship with Haider, prevented him from making the jump to the top of his party," Austrian news agency APA wrote.

Days after Haider's death, Petzner said in an interview with public radio Oe3 that he had been Haider's "Lebensmensch," a relatively new German term used to describe a close and personally important friend.

When the interviewer asked him to define this word and his relationship with Haider, Petzner said that "he and I know what is meant by that and it should remain between us."

Haider was married and had two daughters.

"I neither gave up, nor was I removed" as party head, Petzner said in a press release, referring to his decision to step down. He said that he himself had proposed to hand over the job to Herbert Scheibner, a former defense minister.

Petzner said that he would return to the province of Carinthia, where Haider was governor, to manage the Alliance's campaigns for the elections of the local parliament in March 2009.

Although the Alliance enjoys wide support in Carinthia, its future on the national level is uncertain after the death of its charismatic leader.

In national elections in September, the Alliance won 11 percent of the votes, while the rival far-right Freedom Party won 18 percent.

DPA/Expatica

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